MACAU — If last weekend the 60th Macau Grand Prix was raced in this Chinese territory and, next week, on Dec. 1, running shoes will trample the streets with the Macau Marathon, this weekend it’s all about one sport: Boxing.
My father Bunny and I arrived here at 11:20 a.m. yesterday. Taking the 6 a.m. Cebu Pacific flight from Mactan, as soon as we landed in Hong Kong, we disembarked to ride the 50-minute Turbo Jet fastcraft that torpedoed towards Macau.
The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel is splashed with everything Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. On board the free bus service, video footages were on display; before entering this immense $2.4 billion edifice, gigantic billboards adorned the entrances.
Inside, as we entered the Media Room, dozens of journalists huddled around one American: Freddie. Relaxed while seated and speaking in a calm tone, Freddie Roach wasn’t the combative man that he was two mornings ago when “The Clash in Cotai” erupted — meaning his clash with Ariza and Garcia.
“It won’t happen again,” Roach said, referring to that melee. “It’s not worth it.” Donning a red Nike shirt and white Nike cap that sat as umbrella for his black spectacles, Roach confided the secret that we all know: Manny has to win. Period. No more fourth chances.
“He (Manny) knows he has to be impressive in this fight,” said Roach. “He came from two losses. People are questioning him. Others would have been finished after that knockout loss (to Marquez).” Ever the confident confidante, Roach expects nothing but a KO.
While the guru was speaking, in walks this man whose smile is forever plastered in his jolly, child-like, always-rosy-cheeks face. It was Bob Arum. Nobody noticed. Everyone was focused on Roach. Clad in simple polo shirt and donning New Balance sneakers, the 81-year-old doesn’t look 81. To me, he’s a dozen years younger. With him sneaking from behind the reporters as if he stood as an ordinary spectator — and not the decades-long promoter whose clients included Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard — my dad and I took the chance. We alternated snapping photos with Mr. Arum as the promoter snuck his arms around us if we had been long-time friends.
V GYM. I got the chance, after lunch, to do a 30-minute stationary bike ride exercise inside the hotel’s V Gym. Thousands of Filipinos work in this humongous complex; the head gym instructor hailed from Ozamiz. We made small talk. The day before, he said, Brandon Rios ran on the gym’s treadmill. The instructor spent some time talking with Ariza who confided that, in the trainer’s Bisaya words, “gi-daug-daug mi diri.” Unlike the royal treatment given to Team Pacquaio, he said, they’re not given the same type of hospitality. Maybe Ariza’s making early excuses when Bam Bam loses! The gym trainer mentioned that dozens of Hollywood celebrities have worked-out in V Gym, among them: Nicole Kidman.
DAVID. Remember, a few days ago, Manny Pacquiao quoting the “David and Goliath” story and proclaiming himself as the smaller man who would slay the giant? Manny wants to be David.
Well, another David arrived here yesterday. And he’s one of the world’s most famous footballers. David Beckham is here in Macau for the first time. He’s here to announce a joint business partnership with the Sands Resort. I got to be inside the ballroom where he spoke about his retirement, his greatest football moment (being England captain) and his shift to the world of business. (Another celebrity who’s in town is Alicia Keys. She performed last night and will perform “Set The World On Fire” concert again tonight inside Venetian. On Monday, she flies to Manila for her MOA Arena concert there.)
WEIGH-IN. This morning will be another exciting event here: it’s when all the fighters flex their muscles and step on the scale for the-day-before-ritual. The ballroom will be jampacked as the Weigh-In is open to the public for free.