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Team Pacquiao eyes KO win versus Horn

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Manny Pacquiao took off for Brisbane at around high noon Saturday carrying the hopes of a nation dying to see him relive the glory days.

As the chartered AirAsia flight soared over the vast expanse of lush greenery and surrounding mountains, Pacquiao took a deep breath and reclined his seat for the seven-hour journey.

Joined by family members, training team, friends and followers, Pacquiao makes the first defense of the world welterweight crown for the first time against a brash, young and unbeaten challenger in Jeff Horn on July 2 at Suncorp Stadium.

Unable to score a knockout win since stopping Miguel Cotto in late-2009, Pacquiao is being set up to end that harrowing drought against Horn, whose stance and style is custom-made for Pacquiao’s fast and furious fists.

Even Pacquiao’s strength coach Justin Fortune admits Horn is the type of fighter that can restore his long-time image of a demolition man.

But Pacquiao, who has mellowed through the years, refuses to be lured so as not to crumble in defeat the way Juan Manuel Marquez sent him sinking into the abyss five years ago.

“He’s young and hungry so you have to be extra-careful and I know what he’s thinking” said Pacquiao (59-6-2 with 38 KOs).

But while Pacquiao refrains from issuing a bold prediction, his actions belies it.

Away from the camera’s focus, Pacquiao has been inflicting so much hurt and pain to his body that he admits feeling sore afterwards.

“When you were younger, you don’t feel a thing,” the 38-year-old Pacquiao told a handful of Manila-based scribes who joined him on the A330 jet.

“But now, it takes a bit more time to recover,” he added.

Still, that terrific work ethic is what Pacquiao and his team is banking on as they zero in on a stoppage win versus the 29-year-old Horn.

“He’s still the same to me,” said Fortune, noting that Pacquiao remains in possession of the wide array of skills and talent that put him head and shoulder above everyone else.