Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 | 5 p.m.
If You Go
- Who: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao
- When: Saturday
- Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
- Tickets: $150-$1,500, www.mgmgrand.com. (The original allotment of tickets sold out less than two hours after going on sale in September. A limited number of seats became available last week after a reconfiguration of the arena.)
- Closed circuit: MGM Grand Conference Center, $60-$100
- TV: Pay per view, $54.95
A handful of small young boys ran smack into the pack of cameramen that swarmed their hero like sharks feasting on fish in the ocean Tuesday morning on the Strip.
Luckily none of the youngsters got trampled in the media zoo that ensued as Manny Pacquiao stepped off his self-depicting tour bus at Mandalay Bay.
“He’s a star in his country. He’s an actor, he’s a singer. He loves the press, this isn’t a big deal for him,” said Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, of the paparazzi-style attack by the press during Pacquiao’s grand entrance in preparation for Saturday’s mega fight against Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM.
The sharp-looking Pacquiao, decked out in a navy suit, light blue shirt and festive dark blue and gold tie certainly didn’t seem to mind the extra attention, as he smiled for the cameras, did dual-language interviews and even signed a few autographs.
Mike Mendoza was one of the lucky spectators who got close enough to talk to Pacquiao, considered by many boxing purists to be the sport’s pound-for-pound king.
Mendoza, whose parents are both of Filipino descent, said his admiration for Pacquiao obviously extended beyond his boxing skills.
“He’s the Elvis Presley of the Philippines,” said a smiling Mendoza, who showed off the shiny new gold signature emblazoned on his bright red boxing glove.
“The whole country worships him. I’ve been a big boxing fan for a long time and obviously because of his heritage I’m a big Pacquiao fan.”
He’s not the only one.
Top Rank’s boxing chief Bob Arum stood behind his boxer (as well as side-by-side for a few publicity shots), who remains a 2-to-1 underdog at Las Vegas sports books.
“If you want to make a quick buck and the odds stay the same, bet Manny Pacquiao, because he’ll make a nice Christmas for you,” Arum said, with a chuckle.
“He’s worked harder than he did for the (David) Diaz fight. You’re gonna see a Manny Pacquiao that will blow you away.”
A smiling Pacquiao, who has spent the last several weeks of his nearly two-month training camp in Los Angeles, said he was a bit blown away by Tuesday’s big turnout.
“This promotion is very big compared to the others. Obviously it’s the biggest fight in my career,” said Pacquiao — who praised his training camp as “a career best,” saying he didn’t have to worry about what he ate since he was bulking up and also because of the length of the session.
“(But) I have to do my job in the ring Saturday to make people happy and win the fight.”
Meanwhile up the Strip at the MGM Grand, an even more chaotic scene erupted as the betting favorite and 10-time champ Oscar De La Hoya exited his charcoal Maybach, a German luxury car.
A few hundred fans, even more media members than attended Pacquiao’s arrival, and a boisterous mariachi band accompanied De La Hoya into the makeshift ring already occupied by the company’s Lion mascot inside the casino’s lobby.
“It’s always exciting to come to Las Vegas and be received by a lot of people. Vegas has always been like my second home,” said the slender-looking De La Hoya, who was dressed up in a white button down and designer jeans.
“It’s an honor. We always want to put boxing right on the map again and this fight is doing just that.”
Las Vegas resident Lewis Mora, who is actually a big Pacquiao fan, was highly supportive of De La Hoya — most likley because the “Golden Boy” had just signed his poster.
“You can’t help but be a De La Hoya fan,” Mora said.
“It’s the perfect match. Strength versus speed. It’s gonna be crazy Saturday night.”
Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.