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October 21, 2014

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Kats in Macau: Interviewing Brandon Rios, ‘back play’ and ‘Crazy Happy Show’

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Chris Farina/Top Rank

Brandon Rios and Manny Pacquiao fight on Sunday, Nov, 24, 2013, at Venetian Macao in Macau, China. Pacquiao won a 12-round unanimous decision.

Pacquiao-Rios

November 24, 2013, Macau, China  ---   Superstar Manny Pacquiao (R) wins a 12-round unanimous decision over Brandon Launch slideshow »

Pacquiao vs. Rios: Macau

Teams battled and tempers flared at a workout today when the camps of Team Rios and Team Pacquiao crossed paths during training sessions Wednesday at The Venetian Macao Resort, Nov. 19, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The Streets of Macau

The Wynn Macau and Encore towers, looking fairly familiar. Launch slideshow »

TAIPEI, Taiwan — At this writing, the Kats Report Bureau is at Taiwan International Airport, third level, nestled between Burger King, Starbucks, The Sweet Dynasty noodle emporium and Who Wha Ma Dumpling House & Chinese Restaurant.

We’re awaiting our flight from Taipei to Los Angeles and finally back to Las Vegas after a serious period of time spent in Macau. I believe it was seven days, give or take a day. When you’re traveling from the U.S. to China, time sort of floats freely, not unlike a plastic snowflake fluttering above the Winter in Cotai holiday scene outside Venetian Macau.

On Sunday morning local time, Saturday night in VegasVille, Manny Pacquiao performed the boxing version of a Pepe Jimenez drum solo on Brandon Rios, winning a unanimous decision in “The Clash in Cotai.” A jammed crowd of 13,101 filled Cotai Arena for the bout, in which Pacquiao was in gleeful control throughout as Rios pressed forward, swatting at air and eating cowhide.

“I’m not a punching bag,” was Rios’ mantra afterward, and he’s right. There is no reason to affix an Everlast sticker to his tummy and hoist him over a sparring ring. He kept punching and, on occasion, lifting Pacquiao.

Earlier today, I ran into Rios in the airport in Macau. I actually ran into him outside the airport and also on our flight and again here in Taipei. Most of the principals involved in the fight — the Rios camp, the avuncular gents who work for Top Rank Boxing and some of the media members who flew across the Pacific to cover this event — are taking the same arduous route home.

I talked with Rios for a bit, and he is a forthright person, grinning and posing for photographs with anyone who happened by with a camera. I complimented him (sincerely) for hanging in there with a master boxer performing a Tasmanian Devil impression for 12 rounds.

“It was his quickness,” Rios said, glasses shielding a swollen-red right cheekbone and a stitched-up laceration over his left eye. “That was the difference. I didn’t expect him to be so quick. He’s a lot faster than I thought.” Rios is a stand-up guy. Even Pacquiao, fast afoot and with his mitts, couldn’t floor him.

Speaking of fast, it’s about time to break mine and visit the energized staff over at Who Wa Ma. But not before knocking out some notes about my visit in a Q+A format, inspired by a bloke sitting near me in the food court. When I asked, “How’s the WiFi in here?” he snapped, “It’s rubbish, mate!”

Over time, we’ll write more comprehensively about the entertainment in Macau, the gambling characteristics of the tourists who flood to the hotels, chats I had with workers and entertainers in my favorite enclave. But for the moment, we’ll just rake and (egg) roll:

Did you experience “back play” (the gaming version)?

Yes. This is the practice of gamblers standing behind players during any live game and setting money on a wager already on the table. This is one of those myths that has made it to Las Vegas, that the casinos are so full that players must back-bet or back up those already holding a spot on the felt. But whenever I saw this happen, it was evident mostly at baccarat, sic bo and roulette tables. Usually, the hottest tables drew gamblers to the action for some back play. This was happening even as live tables sat totally unoccupied. The Macau players rush to games with “gravity” and create an overflow of participants.

It was all pretty fun to watch, but I didn’t see any casino floor aside from the relatively small Casino Lisboa, where every seat at every table was occupied. There’s just too much acreage in these massive resorts to fill all those seats regularly. At peak times, maybe. But not consistently.

Did you experience “back play” (the massage version)?

No. Though some friends, including a few entertainers in VegasVille, told me I needed to visit a Macanese massage house, I didn’t. But while walking through more than one hotel, I was asked, “You want a massage?” and my answer was, “My hands are already pretty tired from typing.” These ladies also ask, “How you?” “I am relatively tall.” Or “You want company?” “I’d like stock in Sands, sure.” But no massages. Next time, maybe.

Did you find the seedy underbelly?

I found some seediness, yes. At Golden Dragon Hotel, where I attended the “Crazy Happy Show.” This uber-adult presentation is certainly crazy, on some strange plane. But happy? Not exactly. Sort of sad. It is a show, though, featuring a live sex act as just half of the fun. This is an upcoming column. Much of it is already written, just waiting to … finish.

How does the Venetian brass feel about the fight?

“It was an amazing performance by all the fighters, but what a display of great boxing skills, endurance and strength in the Pacquiao-Rios fight,” Venetian Macau CEO Ed Tracy said afterward, just before one of the longest post-fight news conferences in boxing history (because Pacquiao had to furnish two urine samples to satisfy separate testing requirements). “The place was packed to the rafters, every one of our event rooms (for remote broadcasts) were sold out. We couldn’t be happier. … In terms of orchestrating the card, Top Rank did a spectacular job. I can’t see any way to improve the execution of the card we saw today, quite frankly.”

What about the odds of a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout?

There are two sets of numbers herein.

During the post-fight news conference, Top Rank Boxing’s Bob Arum was asked about the odds of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight ever happening. He said to check with the Wynn Las Vegas or Venetian sports books because he doesn’t set odds. He promotes fights. So I sent a note to Wynn sports book overlord Johnny Avello to set odds for that match. Avello came back with Pacquiao plus-160 and Mayweather minus-180 (Mayweather a slight favorite, in other words). But the next number he sent was more relevant: 9-to-1 against the fight happening, ever.

When and where is Pacquiao’s next fight?

April, in the U.S., but Arum is not yet saying where. He does have a return to Venetian Macau in February.

After walking out of his hotel’s high-limit gambling salon, what was Galaxy Entertainment CEO Mike Mecca presented?

A tightly rolled steaming towel on a silver platter. We were both handed those, actually, though we touched nothing that would qualify as “dirty.”

How many staffers greeted us on our tour of Galaxy Macau?

Maybe a hundred. They came from everywhere — out of fountains, from behind shrubbery, bounding from behind the Christmas display. And you nod and make eye contact with each person. We finally started flashing peace signs just to shake up the monotony.

Did you find a trombone solo?

Yes, from a cracking nine-piece band playing Bellini Lounge at Venetian.

Any big rock acts playing Cotai Arena next year?

The Rolling Stones. The date is to be announced Dec. 3.

Who was seated a few rows behind you at the Alicia Keys show at the Venetian Theater?

Michael Buffer.

What Chinese film legend was considered to be the centerpiece of a stage production at one of the resorts in Macau?

Bruce Lee.

What do many gamblers visiting from mainland China do to recharge their batteries during quick trips to Macau?

Sleep, either on benches or at slot machines.

What is the preferred drink of serious gamblers in Macau?

Water. Don’t offer them alcohol. The attitude is, “What? You’re trying to dull my senses as I try to win money?”

What is the average nightly rate for the 3,000-square-foot Presidential Suite at Hard Rock Macau?

In Macanese money, $68,000. Or about $8,500 USD.

What are a couple of the chief selling points of this suite?

A mechanical bull and a karaoke room staffed by a DJ host.

Follow Kats in Macau on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, find coverage at this link and follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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