Bring onPac-Morales!

Sep 6, 2005 3:07 AM

They’d probably take action on cockroach races if they could find small enough jockeys, so for Sept. 10, sportsbook.com lists odds on Joe Calzaghe at -2500 over Evans Ashira (yes, Evans Ashira) in Cardiff, Wales.

There are odds for Wladimir Varchis (-2500) over Lisandro Ezequiel Diaz and for Dimitri Satison (-650) over Alexander Awdijan, who’s top a card in Karlsruhe, Germany.

But two of boxing’s greatest, Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao, fighting that same night on HBO in the Staples Center of Los Angeles?

Priceless.

That’s because Morales and Pacquiao aren’t fighting each other again.

Not yet.

Bob Arum and HBO are putting on an infomercial card, to advertise the expected rematch of the two stars sometime in the first quarter of 2006. The publicity isn’t necessary to anyone who saw their March 19 classic when Morales scored a close but unanimous decision (all official scores were 115-113) over the Filipino slugger.

Pacquiao has enough reasons to believe that he can reverse that result. It was his first fight at 130 pounds — he can still make the featherweight limit of 126 easily — and he was fighting with his "former" promoter Murad Muhammad and wearing uncomfortable gloves.

El Terrible, of course, has no doubts that he can duplicate his magnificent effort. The Tijuana superstar has become one of boxing’s most entertaining fighters and best ticket-sellers. He is an icon among his Mexican compadres, a pay-per-view bonanza.

But that’s probably the reason Arum and HBO are stalling here. There’s just so many times the game can go to the pay-per-view well and the calendar is crowded: Oscar de la Hoya is putting on a Marco Antonio Barrera-Robbie Peden show on pay-per-view Sept. 17. There’s also Antonio Tarver-Roy Jones Jr. III Oct. 1, Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo II Oct. 8, Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman on Nov. 12, Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins II Dec. 3.

This is not counting an Oct. 21 show by Cedric Kushner and Don King is threatening another one for Sept. 30.

So Morales and the Pac Man are kind of treading water. There may not be odds right now on their fights against Zahir Raheem and Hector Velasquez, respectively, but that doesn’t mean the fights won’t be interesting.

In fact, if you’re a betting man (if you’re not, you must be a betting woman!) otherwise why would you be reading this? You are hereby advised to look at the "over" for both matches, despite the obvious power of Morales and Pacquiao. That is, if ever a line is posted on the length of the fights.

There can be no doubting the outcomes. But guys as good as Morales and Pacquiao — and both are high on my pound-for-pound list (the former is No. 5, the latter No. 6) — often look ahead to each other and/or fight down to their opponents. There will be no major upsets here, but the fights should be competitive. Kind of.

Raheem was this country’s 1996 Olympic representative at bantamweight in Atlanta and has lost only once as a pro, fighting mostly as a featherweight. He is a southpaw, has good movement and there are many who believe he was robbed in his loss to Rocky Juarez.

I can see him giving Morales, who has been known to have subpar nights against subpar opponents not named Barrera or Pacquiao, a tussle for a while. But I can’t see Raheem standing up to El Terrible’s big punches for that long.

Velasquez also made Juarez look bad when he met the 2000 Olympian from Texas, who just lost the zero on his record to unheralded Humberto Soto. But the fact that he took Juarez’s big shots indicates he should be able to handle Pacquiao, for a little while anyway.

Juarez punches well, but not as good as either Morales or Pacquiao. Unless either star suffers a cut, we should be blessed with an unforgettable rematch. For the time being, we’ll accept just having glimpses of them against B-minus fighters.

It may not be compelling drama, but it should be better than the cockroach races, where you take a handful of the bugs, place them in a dark New York City apartment, suddenly snap on the lights and watch them scurry for safety.

I can hear Dave Johnson’s call now: "The roaches are in the dark (lights come on) and they’re off”¦Into the cracks they go”¦"