Pacmania in Australia

Before today, Jeff Horn was a nobody. Outside of Australia, he was, “Jeff, who-rn?” He may be undefeated and won 16 times but those wins came against the most unfamiliar of names: Ali Funeka, Rico Mueller and Randall Bailey. Who are these guys? Soccer midfielders?

Compared to Manny Pacquiao’s resume: the listing of Who’s-Who that he’s defeated include De La Hoya, Hatton, Morales, Barrera and Mosley. That’s why with Manny, the odds are -600. To earn $100, you bet $600. With Horn, it’s +400. This means that your $100 bet for the Aussie will earn you quadruple your investment. (Willy Puno and I made a bet: I owe him dinner if Manny wins by decision; he pays a Marco Polo buffet if Manny scores by KO.)

Which makes this fight remarkable. In the “Battle of Brisbane,” a world champion Hall of Fame invader nicknamed Pacman is fighting a hometown hero who was born and raised in Brisbane. How exciting it is today to be in Australia? (Plus the temperature in Brisbane today is perfect: 9 to 18C.)

Tou know who financed the fight? It’s the Queensland government. It’s called sports tourism. The thousands of people who’ll flood Brisbane and the millions of Australian dollars that will be pumped into the local economy — plus the millions of eyeballs watching on TV from Surigao to Seattle to Sydney — this brings brand promotion for Down Under.

“There is tremendous excitement for this fight — it is something really special,” said Bob Arum. “The whole country has caught on. Every newspaper, front page, back page, all over the television. The country has really embraced this event.”

Andrew Mackinnon, a Brisbane resident, agrees.

“There’s a buzz around the town Horn is on every TV show,” said Andrew, the son of the legendary football coach Graeme Mackinnon. “The media are giving it to the Pac man saying he is showing this fight no respect. Arriving an hour late to interviews and on his phone when at the interviews. There has been 95% of money bet on the fight for Horn to win even though he is the underdog. The fight is a sellout 52000 and every venue showing the fight will be bursting at the seams.”

Andrew will be watching at a local Brisbane club where, his dad says, there will be plenty of Filipinos and where he’ll practice his “Kamusta” and all the Tagalog and Bisaya words that he knows.

With Pacquiao’s antics — coming in late during interviews and fiddling with his phone during the entire press conference — I believe this is a deliberate move. He’s playing mind games with the neophyte, as if to tell him, “I’m the 11-time world champ.”

But this hasn’t endeared Pacman to the locals. 

“Manny has lost some points and respect with the Aussies with his attitude,” said Graeme. This has turned into the bad-guy/good-guy fight, with Graeme adding, “Horn is such a humble guy; a school teacher when not boxing.”

What’s interesting, added Graeme, is Suncorp Stadium. “Last Friday at 9 p.m., there was a big Rugby League game being played there in front of possibly 30,000 spectators. As soon as the game was finished, the transformation of the stadium into a fight venue began,” Graeme said.

“There is an air of expectancy because this is the biggest fight in Australia history. Horn is unknown. But I would not take the unknown for granted; it might come back to bite you. Of course, we want Horn to win but we are also paying homage to one of the greatest boxers of all time. Everyone is hoping for a long fight.”

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