Firstly, if you want the best seats in the arena, write for sports. We sat 11 rows from the stage. Had we purchased those tickets, they’d be over $2,000 each. What’s amazing about being inside Ground Zero (the Media/VIP Section) is that there’s free food served: Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Garrett popcorn, sandwiches, Heinekin beer — eat and drink all you can.
TWO, Bob Arum and The Venetian Macao know how to take care of the press. While here covering the event, you get access inside the Media Room. It’s the size of Waterfront’s ballroom with free wi-fi and (again) sandwiches and ice cream. Even more, at the nearby Media Dining Room, it’s another giant ballroom where, for dinner, lunch and breakfast, we partook of salmon, steak, siomai, carved sweet ham, mussels, giant mushrooms…
We queried Dong Secuya, the internet pioneer of Cebu (he built Cebu’s first website in 1995 and runs one of the world’s top boxing sites, Philboxing.com.) We asked Dong if the reception was similar to Las Vegas; he gave a definitive “No.” There, they serve “pica-pica” and drinks. In Macau, it’s eat and drink the best Asian food until you drop.
THREE, Zou Shiming is a giant here. Diminutive at only 112-lbs., he’s the most revered Chinese boxer, a winner of two Olympic gold medals. Inside The Venetian, there’s an entire hall that showcases everything-Zou: photos, paintings, stories. He’s China’s Pacquiao.
FOUR: Wakee Salud is still in Manny’s inner circle. We saw each other here multiple times. “The security is not as tight as in Las Vegas,” Wakee told me two hours before Manny fought. Wakee was headed towards Manny’s locker room and, sure enough, when they emerged from the dugout, Wakee walked behind Chavit Singson.
FIVE, lots from Cebu here: Cebu City mayors (current) Mike Rama and (former) Tommy Osmena. Dr. Tony San Juan. Willy T. Go. Dennis Que. Rep. Samsam Gullas. Naga mayor Val Chiong. Rep. Raul del Mar. Choy Toralba. Atan Guardo, Alan Delantar, Councilor Richie Osmena. Chester Cokaliong with his friends — and many, many more from Cebu. Among the press, there’s Atty. Jingo Quijano, CDN’s sports editor Rick Gabuya, The Freeman’s sports editor Manny Villaruel and my dad Bunny. I counted two boxing judges (Edward Ligas and Salven Lagumbay) and referee (Atty. Danrex Tapdasan) from Cebu.
SIX: To the younger ones who watched fight, you must have noticed Manny’s entrance song. It wasn’t his personal hit or one from a Pinoy artist but Katy Perry’s song “Roar.” Part of the lyrics go: “You held me down, but I got up; Already brushing off the dust; You hear my voice, you hear that sound; Like thunder gonna shake the ground; You held me down, but I got up; Get ready cause I’ve had enough; I see it all, I see it now… I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire; Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar…”
SEVEN: This was “Lutong Macau.” No, it doesn’t mean that this fight was fixed or rigged. It means that “gi luto ug gi-kaon si Rios.” In our talks here, here’s the consensus: 1) Rios was ideal for Manny at this point because he was easy. He’s slow, lacks power, doesn’t have top-level pedigree. 2) Manny needed this (“stepping stone”) win. Badly. 3) MP was cautious. It’s obvious the memory of that Marquez KO still lingers. Last Sunday while he was clearly leading, why take unnecessary risks? 4) There will be more MP fights in Macau. Why? Because of the overflowing Pinoy crowd. On one elevator ride, a companion of Manny from GenSan confided that Manny flew in 500 people from Gensan!
EIGHT: You and I saw what we’ve long known: Manny no longer wears the rosary and he doesn’t make the sign of the cross. I’m a devout Catholic and I don’t want to meddle into a debate on this sensitive topic other than to say that, no doubt and confirmed by everybody, he’s a reformed and honest-to-goodness Christian. As I listened for myself in the exclusive press conference, he repeatedly thanked God above all. “This is not about me,” he said. “I’m just a boxer. This is my job. All glory to God.” Amen.