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A new opponent, another peak to conquer for Manny Pacquiao.

The Filipino pound-for-pound king will be fighting Mexican Antonio Margarito for the vacant World Boxing Council light middleweight crown on Nov. 13 in a bid to further bolster his sterling credential as boxing’s only seven-division champion.

Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, chose Margarito over Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, the other replacement candidate after negotiations with the camp of Floyd Mayweather Jr. (dubbed as the world's greatest coward by some sports commentators) for a megabuck showdown fell through on July 15.

Arum told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports on Friday (Saturday in Manila) that he picked Margarito because the three-time former world champion is perceived to be a more competitive opponent than Cotto, who was stopped by Pacquiao in the 12th round to win the World Boxing Organization welterweight title last November.

The venue of Pacquiao-Margarito is uncertain so far with Monterrey, Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada, as preferred sites and Abu Dhabi as a long-shot host.

Margarito is still barred from fighting in the United States even after serving a one-year suspension for use of hardened hand wraps against Shane Mosely in 2009.

But casino operators are expected to exert their influence and try to convince the Nevada State Athletic Commission to grant the Mexican even a temporary license to fight in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Commission bared that casinos had their best night in two years due to the influx of Asian high-rollers last Nov. 14 when Pacquiao dethroned Cotto.

If the NSAC refuses to budge, a 22,000-seat arena, is available in Monterrey, where Margarito and even Pacquiao, due to his reputation as Mexican Assassin, enjoy a huge following.

In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillo, Pacquiao said he has no qualms facing Margarito in Mexico, where he spent a short but pleasant vacation with his family in June.

Pacquiao, who stands 5-foot-6, indicated that he’s willing to tangle with the 5-foot-11 Margarito at a catch weight of not exceeding 150 pounds.

In his return bout on May 8, Margarito won by unanimous decision over Robert Garcia to raise his record to 38-6 with 27 knockouts.

With the demand of his new job as congressman of Sarangani province, Pacquiao (51-3-2) may spend most of his training in Manila, with chief trainer Freddie Roach coming over middle of September.

Roach will be flying in with physical conditioning expert Alex Ariza and several sparring partners, reportedly to be headed by unbeaten and popular Mexican Julio Chavez Jr.

After whipping himself into shape, Pacquiao will wind up his preparation with a three-week stint at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. - Phil Daily Inquirer

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