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Little guy has crucial qualities in his corner

Making my best case for the little guy in tonight’s big fight at the MGM Grand Garden:

1. Long odds never have bothered him.

He was 11 that day when other kids made his brother cry on the streets of General Santos in the Philippines, when for the first time he raised his fists to another.

“It was two against one,” Manny Pacquiao said.

You and your brother against someone?

“No.”

You against two others?

“Yes.”

What happened?

“I won.”

You beat up both?

“Yeah.”

2. Size never has bothered him.

Pacquiao will be going for his third win of the year in a third weight class when he engages Oscar De La Hoya in their welterweight showdown.

De La Hoya is bigger, stronger, has a 5-inch reach advantage. He also tends to forget his left jab like your child does his homework. He also hasn’t seen 147 pounds since 2001. In cutting to make such weight, the physical damage has been done before he enters the ring.

That’s why surviving six rounds is the magic solution for Pacquiao. If jumping two weight classes hasn’t taken too much of his speed and agility, if he can use his exceptional footwork to move across that lethal jab and batter De La Hoya’s fit but aging body, if the fight reaches its midpoint with the underdog standing, the Filipino wonder will begin to pile up points while his opponent tires.

Or didn’t you see Oscar fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

“It’s not like I want to give my game plan away,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, “but who doesn’t know we have to get past that jab?”

One thing can do it. Speed. Pacquiao’s level of speed. He will enter the fight between 147 and 150 pounds and begin moving right when he exits his dressing room and not stop until a winner is declared. He will go right like a NASCAR driver goes left, and maybe just as fast.

You look at him and realize Pacquiao gained the weight for function and not bulk, for being just as quick as ever over 12 rounds and not to grace any muscle magazine covers.

He gained it the smart way.

3. It’s personal for everyone, but Roach doesn’t lose bets.

There was the legal squabble a few years back, when Golden Boy Promotions thought it had Pacquiao signed and Top Rank won out instead. There is the fact De La Hoya fired Roach following the split-decision loss to Mayweather in May of last year. There are all sorts of bad feelings and bad blood in both corners of this fight.

There is also this: Roach during his training career has placed bets on just three of his fighters. He has won all three times.

Tonight, he has $5,000 on Pacquiao to win by knockout.

“I’ve been up late nights, not sleeping so well, with so many people telling me my guy is going to get killed,” Roach said. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m wrong.

“But then I put everything together and my final thought is we’re going to win. I am so confident about it. I am sure we’re going to win. My guy is too active, too sharp. Speed wins this fight, not size.

“Before I go to bed and finally fall asleep, I have Manny knocking him out.”

And some cold hard cash riding on it.

4. Yes, two ounces can make that big a difference.

De La Hoya’s left hand is one of immense power, but there is a reason Pacquiao’s camp celebrated what they felt was a huge victory when 8-ounce gloves were approved for the fight.

A lighter glove ultimately favors Pacquiao, who no doubt will relentlessly try to counter De La Hoya’s jab. De La Hoya’s left can end the fight in a second, but first he has to cut Pacquiao off and catch him. First he has to do what he couldn’t against the last pound-for-pound king he fought.

5. Fear is not an issue.

He’s not afraid of the stage. Pacquiao is treated with rock-star status back home. He is mobbed to the point special convoys and security details are part of his daily existence. This is the biggest fight for the biggest purse of his career, but such an intense glare won’t alter his focus.

He’s not afraid of his opponent. Winchell Campos travels with the Pacquiao camp and is writing the fighter’s biography. There are sections of the book that describe the atrocious conditions that surrounded Pacquiao’s childhood.

“He grew up in constant turmoil and violent situations,” Campos said. “As a young boy, he saw death often and didn’t crumble from it. Those experiences made him stronger.

“He doesn’t fear anyone.”

Making my call for the little guy: Pacquiao by decision.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at (702) 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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