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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Behind Closed Doors: Unveiling the Manny Pacquiao effect within Top Rank

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Las Vegas Boxing Examiner | Chris Robinson

There’s nothing quite like an insider’s perspective.

When taking a look at the life of aspiring Las Vegas amateur boxer Ryan ‘The Rhino’ Bates, you will sense a man who has much more to him that meets the eye. Not only is Bates a fighter with championship dreams, he is also a correspondent for 411Mania.com and has spent some time in the past working for the biggest promotional company in the industry, Top Rank.

During his time within the company Bates worked directly under Top Rank’s head public relations man, Lee Samuels. From helping organize huge events at the MGM Grand to assisting Top Rank’s stable of fighters with their endless requests, Bates got to know a completely different side of the sport on a first hand basis.

One thing Bates got to notice right off the bat was just how well each of Top Rank’s fighters were handled. While champions such as Miguel Cotto, Kelly Pavlik, and Juan Manuel Lopez were treated with obvious importance, Bates will concede that nobody had the impact that Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao had within the company.

“Pacquiao was that office at times,” Bates pointed out recently. “If he had a fight coming up and you had three different projects on your desk and Manny Pacquiao wanted something, you made sure to do whatever Manny wanted first. Quite frankly at times I was alright with it because he became the pound for pound champion and when you reach that level I think you kind of deserve it.”

One thing about Pacquiao that has been well documented is that he always comes with a large entourage. While it’s great in the sense that Pacquiao has great appreciation for those important to him it could also become quite the choir handling all of the requests that came with Manny’s large group.

“There were times when it was frustrating because he would often have a lot of demands,” Bates concedes. “Sometimes instead of having a certain amount of people on his list he would add seventeen or more people. You had to just find a way to make it happen and it could be challenging. When his fights were coming up that office revolved around him.”

While it may have been a challenge, Bates admits that it was never too much of a pain catering to Pacquiao and his team. If anything, Bates was able to get an up close look into how much trust Pacquiao had in those around him and exactly how his team made things work.

“Manny is a very genuine guy too,” Bates points out. “He always rolls deep, which was annoying at first, but that’s because you realize everyone who is around him is somebody he knows very well and is very concerned about. He’s very genuine and you notice that he likes to joke around a lot. I remember back on the De La Hoya-Pacquiao tour, this stop was in Texas, somebody from Manny’s team pulled out a squirt gun and started shooting people. That’s just how his people are sometimes. Manny loves to have fun and he was very polite the few times I talked to him.”

For as much as he may like to joke outside of the ring, Pacquiao has been all business when inside of the ropes. Lately his victories over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton have put him at a whole new level in the sport, one that very few fighters ever attain. Reflecting on those victories, Bates remembers just how much a Pacquiao victory impacted his life at work the following week.

“When he won the next day was the greatest day on earth,” Bates says smiling. “There were only fifteen or so people in the core office, and we all walked in like ‘yeah, we did it’, as if we were part of that victory too. The Pacquiao fights were the greatest. The Monday after the De La Hoya fight had to be the greatest and we were just riding a high.”

The man responsible for a huge part of Pacquiao’s success is Bob Arum, who runs Top Rank. While Arum is regarded by some as a shrewd businessman who will do anything to make a buck, Bates will be the first to admit that he saw a different side of the promoter when it came to Pacquiao.

“People are very skeptical of Bob’s appreciation of his fighters,” Bates acknowledges. “I don’t blame them because promoters aren’t highly trustable people, but I will say from what I have seen of Bob and Manny interacting and Bob speaking, that his love is genuine. Aside from all of the money that Pacquiao made for the company I feel that Bob really did care about Manny and his well being.”

The sport of boxing requires a lot of hard work and often a lot of traveling for world class fighters when they reach an elite level in the sport. Pacquiao is no different and Bates can only recall a few occasions when he crossed paths with the multi-division champion. Still, those rare times when he did interact with Manny, he was left with quite an impression.

“I remember one time that we specifically had to get one autograph from him for one of the sponsors,” Bates recalls. “We had Pacquiao sign a few autographs and Pacquiao didn’t know me from Adam and he was just the nicest guy. I could have told him I need you to sign this blank check and he might have even done that. There is something about him that makes him so laid back and I think that’s a great quality in him.”

While most of Bates’ duties required that he held down the Top Rank offices in Las Vegas, he still found himself traveling his share, as he was often on the road in conjunction with media tours for scheduled fights. One such pit stop in California captured Bates’ imagination in a way he never expected.

“I always loved going to press conferences on the West Coast,” Bates claims. “I remember distinctly going to the Los Angeles press conference for De La Hoya-Pacquiao and being in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard, right in the heart of Los Angeles. It was firmly De La Hoya territory and there was just a mass of people who came out. That street was packed from our stage back to the intersection and there were even people on rooftops. It was crazy and the Filipinos came out strong to support their boy too. Every time people started chanting ‘Oscar’ it would be followed up by people chanting ‘Manny’. I talked to a couple different fans and no matter who they were rooting for they just were looking forward to a good fight.”

While that atmosphere may have been dynamic, there was nothing quite like the frenzy of an actual Pacquiao fight, at least according to Bates. Having fought in Las Vegas for eight of his last eleven contests, Sin City is like a second home to Pacquiao and Bates recalls first hand just how crazy the town gets during fight week.

“Before any big fight, but especially before a Pacquiao fight the city is just crazy,” Bates points out. “If you walked outside you couldn’t look too far without seeing people who were talking about the bout. Pacquiao-Hatton was madness. I think the entire nation of the United Kingdom was over there. I don’t know what the Queen was doing; she must have been sitting on her throne wondering where everyone was. There were also plenty of Filipinos down there. All of the British pubs were packed and it was just crazy.”

The Pacquiao-Hatton fight was certainly electric and Bates himself can’t recall any event that had the magnitude of the two stars linking up. Despite the fight being completely one-sided the atmosphere first hand was definitely worth remembering.

“I remember walking towards the arena for that fight,” Bates recalls. “The instant you got inside the MGM you could hear ‘There’s only one Ricky Hatton’ and down the line you could hear people cheering for Manny. Usually when you get into a big event and it’s a dark undercard there is only 10 percent of the people there. Already that place was starting to fill up and it was a madhouse. The roar of the crowd was so loud that you almost couldn’t hear Michael Buffer. It was the wildest fight.”

No matter how wild the occasion, one man in Pacquiao’s corner who seems to take everything with stride is his trainer Freddie Roach. As the chief trainer in Manny’s corner Roach has guided his charge with great care and understanding. Throughout it all, Bates has his reasons for believing why Roach is so unfazed.

“This is old hat for Freddie Roach,” Bates says without hesitation. “He’s had so many great fighters that it’s just second nature for him. I remember during the Pacquiao-Hatton red carpet press conference I had to assist Freddie Roach for the day. I basically followed him around and made sure everything was alright as far as him getting to all of his interviews. He was so down to earth and it was just another day at the office for him. He’s just gotten so used to working with Manny that he rolls with anything.”

In talking to Bates you get a true sense of the effect Pacquiao has had within Top Rank but it’s obvious that his star power has covered a much wider platform. While this may be a ride that many people didn’t see coming, Pacquiao has found a way to impact the boxing world as well as his own country. According to Bates, Pacquiao is still learning to adjust to his superstar status and in an odd way perhaps that’s what makes him so endearing to many, simply because he’s remained the same person throughout his journey in the sport.

“He’s put the Philippines on the map. He is the Philippines at times. Now because of him we are discovering so much new talent in the Philippines. Nonito Donaire, Z Gorres, and Bernabe Concepcion have all made a name for themselves by following in Pacquiao’s footsteps. We wouldn’t have heard of them it wasn’t for Manny Pacquiao. I still think he’s starting to adjust to his celebrity status. Just a year ago it was kind of new to him but he’s still coming into his own in many ways.”

Source: http://www.examiner.com/x-22973-Las-Vegas-Boxing-Examiner~y2009m11d9-Behind-Closed-Doors-Unveiling-the-Manny-Pacquiao-effect-within-Top-Rank

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