The Layup Drill — Football, fights, and fore!

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

From left: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Ryoichi Maeda, Lee Keun Ho, and Son Heung Min

Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this month’s column, we take a look at the World Cup, Manny Pacquiao, and more.

2 Asian countries in the World Cup

By the time you read this, sports fans across the world will be waking up early, staying up late, or taking extended lunch breaks at work to watch the World Cup. Even if you are not a huge soccer fan, most will take notice of the event, occurring this year in soccer-centric Brazil, which will be extra enthused, as its team is one of the favorites to win it all. The U.S. team is a definitive underdog this year. It will have Sounders forward Clint Dempsey on the team, but there’s not much hope that the team will get past its initial matches. As for the rest of the field, there are only two teams from Asia that qualified for the 32-team field.

Japan: One of the more exciting teams in the field, Japan, is known for its creativity on the field and is a team to watch. Its key players include Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, and Ryoichi Maeda. Notably, Kagawa plays for famed soccer club Manchester United in Europe. He was named Asian International Footballer of the Year in 2012. Honda has been pegged by The New York Times as possibly the “next [David] Beckham.” Honda, like Beckham, has the good looks and great play to become a global superstar on and off the field. Honda plays in Milan when not representing his country. The 27-year-old Honda is a stylish dresser, and, according to men’s designer Robert Geller, “He puts a Japanese twist on things, so it’s a little more playful than the typical Italian style.” Perhaps the bleach-blond Honda will give added reason to watch Japan in action.

The team, coached by Italian soccer legend Alberto Zaccheroni, has gained some momentum going into the World Cup.

South Korea: According to an ESPN, “You look at this [South Korea] lineup and everybody has the ability to change a game.” The 2012 Asian Player of the Year Lee Keun-Ho has scored five goals in two rounds of qualifying for the World Cup. But the player to look for is Son Heung Min. Son is the only member of the team playing in Champions League Football — the top soccer league (and considered the best league in the world) in Europe. The team tends to spread the wealth with its goal scorers and it hopes to continue to do so in Brazil.

Pacquiao signs on for 3 years

After his April fight with Timothy Bradley, Jr., which saw Manny Pacquiao avenge a controversial loss, Pacquiao has decided to fight for at least two more years, as he has inked a deal with his boxing promotion, Top Rank. Pacquiao is also selling his Los Angeles home in the Hancock Park neighborhood of the city. The Filipino boxer primarily uses the home when he is in town training for fights. No word if Pacquiao is in the market for another home or just downsizing. The home is listed at $2.7 million for those with the money who are looking for a place in Southern California.

In addition to his work as a politician in the Philippines, he was named the head coach of the Kia Motors expansion team in the Philippine Basketball Association. The team, sponsored by the carmaker, will play in October for the 2014-2015 season. Pacquiao, a basketball fanatic, regularly uses basketball as cross-training to keep in shape. But is Pacquiao the next Phil Jackson? Unlikely. We can see that appointing Pacquiao as the head coach may be more of a public relations stunt than a tap into his basketball knowledge. Plus, Pacquiao is slated to fight this November when the team is scheduled to begin play. We may see the head coach needing to take some time off from his coaching duties to focus on his main job of being a boxer.

Donaire returns to the ring

Once thought of as one of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and sometimes compared to Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire returned to the ring in Macau, China, this past May. The Filipino American boxer faced South African Simpiwe Vetyeka, whom he defeated to win the World Boxing Association’s Super Featherweight title. Despite the win, the fight ended in controversy as Donaire was severely cut over his eye in the first round due to an unintended head butt between the two fighters. The fighters continued even as Donaire continued to bleed over his eye and into his line of vision. The judges and officials decided not to stop the fight. Donaire did score a knockdown in the fourth round of an evenly matched fight. At the beginning of the fifth round, the officials decided to stop the fight because of the severity of Donaire’s cut. According to the rules, when a fight is stopped due to a cut, it goes to the scorecards, which had Donaire ahead — essentially due to the knockdown. While Donaire won by unanimous technical decision, it was not the most impressive outing for a fighter who was unanimously selected as the 2012 Fighter of the Year.

Munoz loses in last fight of contract

On the same day as Donaire’s fight in Macau, MMA fighter Mark Munoz, known as “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” fought in the main event of an Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) event in Berlin, Germany. Unfortunately for Munoz, he lost in the first round after being submitted by his opponent Gegard Mousasi. Munoz has won just once in his last four UFC fights. Despite the loss, Munoz has vowed to continue fighting. The loss may not have been the best in terms of timing as the loss in Berlin was the last fight on Munoz’s contract. Munoz, who is one of the nicest guys in fighting, must now see if he can renegotiate a new contract. But with the recent losses, he has been removed from fighter rankings and it might be hard for him to return. We wish Munoz, who we have interviewed on a couple of occasions, the best in his future.

Inbee does it again

Inbee Park won another LPGA golf event, winning the Manulife Financial Classic on June 8. Park turned back China’s Shanshan Feng and Michelle Wie for the win. The victory was needed by Park, as she recently lost her No. 1 women’s golf ranking. It was the 25-year-old’s first win since the U.S. Women’s Open last June. Park had been in a funk as the win ended a 20-event tour winless streak. Maybe this will begin a streak for Park, who admitted she felt pressure, but used it as motivation. Her next tournament is the U.S. Open, the same tournament that she won last year. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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