MACAU — Michael Buffer kept on repeating the words: “This is the biggest boxing event EVER here on the Asian continent!”
Starring the greatest martial artist since Bruce Lee — Manny Pacquiao — here in Asia’s Las Vegas, it can’t get any bigger than this. Roy Jones, Jr. Bob Arum. Larry Merchant. The entire HBO Boxing entourage. The world’s boxing media. They’re all here. Live. To cover what promises to be a blockbuster of a Sunday.
Yesterday morning at 7:30, the preeminent Emcee of Boxing (Buffer) welcomed the Cotai Arena crowd in The Venetian as lights circled the darkened stadium. Getting a first look inside the coliseum, the Cotai Arena is first-class; each seat is cushioned and this 15,000-seater complex, though huge, is not as large as, say, the Araneta Coliseum.
The Official Weigh-in happened fast. One boxer after another was called. Trainers jumped onstage. Bob Arum walked calmly. My father, Bunny, and I were seated at the left wing, about 50 feet away. We were stationed two rows in front of Bobby Pacquiao and right beside the opening where the boxers would emerge. Covered by a tall black curtain, we could see a glimpse of The Square: the boxing ring that will take centerstage today.
Before Pacman stepped out to public view, we saw him emerging from the dugout. Buboy & Bodyguards swamped MP. On stage was fellow Cebuano Salven Lagumbay, wearing a black suit with the WBO logo. Salven would jointly hold a shirt with Manny for the TV to broadcast, promoting their project to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
I’m not sure if you heard it on TV but Brandon Rios was jeered. The Filipino contingent here is in full strength. BOOO! BOOO! This chant against Rios reverberated throughout the stadium. As Macau is just nearby, this was a thunderous precedent of what was to come today: thousands of Pinoys are here, all throats ready for the scream.
A funny chant? CHAVIT! CHAVIT! As if to mock Manny’s buddy who never fails to step right behind/beside him to get the best TV footage, Chavit Singson transforms into Manny’s magnet when onstage. The crowd echoed his name and we all laughed. Politico gyud.
PARA SA TACLOBAN! one man screamed. Amidst the loud booming music (which included one inspiring and goosebumps-inducing Pinoy song), a Filipino shouted to catch Pacman’s attention. He didn’t hear the chant but he looked our way when the Philippine flag was waved.
A few meters beside us was the temporary stage built for the HBO newscasters. These men we see on TV (Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Merchant) were doing commentary. One guest they invited was familiar: Dyan Castillejo. On worldwide TV, she talked about her fellow Pinoy. An amusing story: while preparing for Dyan to be interviewed, she was briefed by the HBO staff — including giving her specific advice on how to properly hold the microphone (she was holding it too high); my dad and I smiled because our veteran newscaster was still being given tips — but, of course, this was HBO.
No firewords erupted yesterday. No punches. No pre-fight The Clash (Roach and Ariza). It was all formal and quick. Too fast that, by 7:50, Manny and Brandon were finished. They lingered for a few more interviews before exiting by 8. In 30 minutes, zoom, the much-hyped affair was done.
NOTES. Quinito Henson, in our talk after, said that “parang piga si” Rios. He meant to say that he looked too dehydrated. Quinito said that Rios gulped two Gatorades right after stepping the scales. This is bad. Rios might reach 160 when he enters the ring today. As for Manny’s 145 lbs. weight yesterday, it was ideal. He didn’t have to starve.
“Grabe ang ka-on ni Manny last night,” said Rep. Samsam Gullas, whom we also saw. Together with three of his mayors, Samsam visited Manny’s suite in The Venetian the other night at 8:30.
FIGHT. Interviewing dozens of experts here, if Rios continues his usual stance of going forward, playing offense, and not offering much defense, this clash will be highly-exciting — and very quick, possibly ending before Rd. 7.