By the time Manny Pacquiao reaches the Philippines on Friday, he will have traveled 40,000 miles on a press tour that will have made stops in Macau, Bejing, Singapore, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles.
If he were in one of those airline frequent flyer programs, he would have earned enough points for a nice vacation. And when he steps out of the ring against Brandon Rios at the Venetian Macao in a 12-round welterweight Pay Per View match on Nov. 23, he may well need a long, relaxing vacation.
Pacquiao and Rios were the picture of weary road warriors during an afternoon press conference at Jing Fong Restaurant in Chinatown (where else would it be?) in lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. There was a crowd of reporters with cameras and notepads crushing in on them to ask the same questions that reporters in the previous stops in China had all asked – but in a different language.
Rios said the highlight of going to China was walking on the Great Wall and the hospitality of the Chinese people. He said there had been no trash talking during the promotion, even though he had once callously mocked the Parkinson symptoms of Freddie Roach, Pacquaio’s trainer, before Pacquiao fought Antonio Margarito in 2010. He said he had long since apologized to Roach and that Roach had accepted the apology.
“This is the first time that I’ve done press conferences where there’s no trash talking,” Rios said. “Nobody stepped up and started it, so I’m not going to step up and start it and be the bad guy.”
But Rios (31-1-1, 22 knockouts) has no trouble wearing the black hat when he gets into the ring. His straight ahead style has earned him tons of fans and made him a tough out in the ring.
“I know Rios is a good fighter, who throws a lot of punches and he’s very aggressive,” Pacquiao said. “I believe he will give a good fight. If he comes to fight I will prove in the boxing ring that my career is not over.”
Of course that is the big question after Juan Manuel Marquez flattened Pacquiao with a thunderous shot that landed on his chin and sent him face down on the canvas for a sixth-round KO victory on Dec. 8.
“In that sixth round I got too aggressive and I got careless and he got me with a good shot,” Pacquiao said. “If you see that fight you will see that I was in great condition. I was probably in the best condition for a fight than I had been in a long time.”
The stunning KO loss seemed to indicate that the 34-year-old Filipino sensation was slipping. In his previous fights before getting KO’ed by Marquez, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) had lost a controversial 12-round decision to Timothy Bradley and had scored a narrow majority decision victory over Marquez.
Rios was at ringside for Pacquiao’s last fight, because he knew that there was a chance that he would get the winner of the fight.
“I was shocked,” Rios said. “Prior to that knockout he was winning the fight. I was like, “Wow!”
Rios is not thinking that he will be facing damaged goods when he fights Pacquiao, who hasn’t scored a KO victory since stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of their match in 2009.
“I have to think that I’m going to see the same Manny Pacquiao that was so dominant for all those years,” Rios said. “That’s the way that I will be training.”
Rios said he will return to Macau two weeks before the fight to acclimate himself to the time change. They will actually fight on Sunday morning in Macau to accommodate the HBO Pay Per View start time of 9:00 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Bob Arum of Top Rank, the promoter for both Rios and Pacquiao, said it is worth it. Arum is trying to cultivate the China market, starting in Macau, which is rivaling Las Vegas as a top gambling destination.
“You can’t be considered a major sport unless you translate that sport to China and all the Asian markets,” Arum said. “That’s why the NBA is getting involved in China and so is Major League Baseball. And now so are we in boxing.”
Arum has already done two shows at the Venetian in Macau, featuring Zou Shiming, a two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist in boxing. This will be the first time that he will stage a major pay per view event there, using his main attraction – Pacquiao.
Pacquiao is excited about the prospects of fighting in Macau for the first time. Ostensibly it will be a hometown fight for Pacquiao, because Macau is an hour and a half flight from the Philippines.
“It is good because a lot of people from the Philippines will be able to come and see me fight and they won’t have to get visas,” Pacquiao said.
Edward Tracy, President and CEO of Sands Macao, said he hopes that Pacquiao can help to establish boxing as a mainstay for his casino group in China.
“Pacquiao is the first global event for us,” Tracy said. “It could turn the corner for us.”
Macau has become a beacon for the people in China, who are experiencing their own economic boom.
“China has 1.3 billion people all experiencing a rise in middle class success with lots of disposable income, looking for things to do and ways to be entertained and they come to Macau in droves,” Tracy said.
The people in China are getting re-introduced to boxing, which was banned by Mao during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Tracy said they are trying to tap into “China’s DNA for battling sports.”
There are three things that he will be looking for from the Pacquiao-Rios fight to determine the success of the event.
“First it has to be commercially viable. Then it has to raise the visibility of Macau as a tourist destination and it has to do something good for our brand,” he said.
Sitting next to Tracy, Pacquiao said he has no problem fighting a few more times in Macau if the fans enjoyed the Rios fight and if the money is right.
Tracy took out an imaginary pin and started scribbling on an invisible piece of paper.
Photos / Chris Farina-TOP RANK