Aug 13, 2007

Pacquiao returns; Ara Mina denies rumors

MANILA, Philippines -- What is happening to the people’s champion?
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Ring sensation Manny Pacquiao suddenly returned to Manila early Sunday after leaving his Wild Card training camp in California, disrupting his training program and triggering speculation something was troubling him, or that he was lovesick.

As it is, Pacquiao is already late for his workouts for his

Oct. 6 rematch with Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, trainer Freddie Roach admitted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Sacramento, California, the morning after the boxer left in a huff for Manila.

Pacquiao would not return phone calls to him Sunday.

Actress Ara Mina squelched rumors of a romantic link between her and the country’s boxing icon.

“Wala, friendly lang ako (There is nothing between us, I was just being friendly),” Ara Mina said, laughing a bit, in a phone interview with the Inquirer Sunday night.

“I didn’t know he has come back. I know his number but I do not call him,” she said in Filipino.

Ara Mina said someone had asked her about Pacquiao as early as April but that she had said that she was not in constant touch with him.

“He has not called me also,” she said.

She said she was surprised to hear about the rumors, adding that she and Pacquiao had been shooting a movie “but it’s too early for promotion.”

Ara Mina also said she didn’t want to make any assumptions, when asked if she thought Pacquiao liked her.

In Sacramento, Roach said he was scheduled to leave Sunday morning for Manila en route to Cebu to make sure Pacquiao resumed working out after he bolted Wild Card without a word on Friday night.

The reigning World Boxing Council International super featherweight titlist slipped back into Manila on a Philippine Airlines flight from Los Angeles early Sunday.

Never known to turn away from the spotlight, the internationally acclaimed prizefighter was suddenly camera-shy when he arrived, stirring up flurries of speculation.

Roach gave a partial explanation. He said Pacquiao would be training in Cebu for his Las Vegas rematch with Barrera and he had revised the boxer’s training schedule.

“The last two weeks, we will do it in the United States -- one week in LA and the final week in Vegas,” Roach said.

But why did Pacquiao have to leave?

“I have no idea, it could be because of a business deal, a girl, or whatever, but we definitely did not quarrel,” Roach said, squelching reports he and Pacquiao had a row.

Shielded by an airport security officer, Pacquiao ducked and scurried into the VIP area on seeing Inquirer photographer Jess Yuson on his arrival in Manila.

“Sir, are you OK?” the security man asked the fleeing Pacquiao.

“OK lang (I am OK),” Pacquiao said before disappearing through the door.

In ducking the media, Pacquiao left unanswered several intriguing questions:

Why did he leave his training in California and why apparently in a hurry?

On his arrival, he was wearing what appeared to be the same long-sleeved striped shirt he wore during Friday’s press conference in Los Angeles.

Where is Pacquiao now?

Why was he walking with what looked on camera to be a cane as he went down the airport escalator on his arrival?

Roach laughed off talk linking Pacquiao to Ara Mina, whispers that have become grist for the entertainment world’s rumor mill.

Rumors started to pop up regarding the two when they started filming a movie together, one where a kissing scene took nine takes.

Reports had it that the reason Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee left their home to fly to Cebu was because she was affected by the rumors about her husband and the actress.

“The lateness (of training) could be checked, after all it’s not critical,” Roach said, adding he would bring in a couple of bigger sparmates, both Mexicans, to Cebu.

Reminded that Pacquiao would inevitably be exposed to a lot of hometown distractions, Roach shrugged.

“There will be endless distractions for Manny anywhere he goes, anywhere he trains,” he said.

Back in US soon?

Trainer Nonoy Neri, who assists Buboy Fernandez in whipping Pacquiao into form, claimed the Filipino boxing idol should be checking back at Wild Card next weekend or anytime soon.

This was the reason, Neri explained, Pacquiao had asked him to stay put at their well-appointed apartment in Los Angeles.

Pacquiao’s family in General Santos City denied any knowledge of the boxer’s withdrawal from training at Wild Card Gym.

Dionisia Pacquiao, the boxer’s mother, appeared surprised when asked by the Inquirer about it.

“Ambot, wala pa mi kabalo ana. Wala pa man sya katawag (We don’t know anything about that. He hasn’t called us),” Dionisia said.

Pacquiao’s bodyguard, Sgt. Carlos Homo, claimed that the champion was “sleeping in his home” at BF Homes Village in Parañaque City.

Pacquiao arrived in Manila on board PAL Flight PR 103 from Los Angeles shortly before 6 a.m.
With reports from Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao, and Tarra Quismundo in Manila
Nikko Dizon, Recah Trinidad

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