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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It was Manny’s stage in Las Vegas

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By Francis Ochoa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:48:00 11/11/2009

LAS VEGAS— The lull in between the official welcome laid out by the MGM Grand for the two boxers facing off on Nov. 14 spoke volumes about how this was going to be more Manny Pacquiao’s show than it will be Miguel Cotto’s.

But it’s not like Miguel Cotto has no plans of ruining the storyline.

Pacquiao walked the red carpet of the MGM Grand lobby to deafening cheers and exploding flashbulbs and made his way up a makeshift ring adorned with a centerpiece golden lion statue to a reception fit for a king, a reception that surprised even the boxer-celebrity who is accustomed to crowds mobbing his every public move.

“I am surprised and happy that a lot of people came [to welcome me],” Pacquiao told reporters from both print and broadcast that tried to squirm their way in front of him to capture a sound bite or two even as photographers and cameramen jostled for prime shots at the world’s reigning pound-for-pound king.

After answers to a couple of questions, Pacquiao would turn his back and face the throng that had gathered at the hotel lobby as early as an hour or two before his late arrival to wave at fans, who would respond by shrieking “Manny! Manny!” with fervor.

Pacquiao faces Cotto on Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand’s garden Arena, where the Filipino ring icon will attempt to become the first boxer to win world titles in seven different weight classes. And while Pacquiao has spoken several times about trying to win one for the victims of a string of violent storms that hit the Philippines, or writing about a page in boxing history, he insists he has nothing against the man who will be out to stop him.

“It’s nothing personal, I’m just doing my job to try and make people happy,” he explained.

And then, after a whirlwind of quickie interviews, Pacquiao left—and almost simultaneously, so did the air inside the hotel lobby. The moment the Filipino ring icon hit the exit, life was sucked out of the event organized by the promoting Top Rank, with the crowd—which had swelled to a couple of hundred—thinning to less than a third of its original size.

This was the audience Cotto was left to work with.

Although there was still boisterous cheering the moment Cotto arrived about half an hour later for his public appearance, the noise was seemingly amplified only by the echoes of a few rabid supporters in a relatively emptied lobby.

Not that Cotto minded.

“Everything Manny has, everything he gets, he has earned,” Cotto told reporters with the stoic nonchalance of a person who is familiar with the throng his opponent can attract, the ones that went off looking for the nearest lunch venue after Pacquiao had left the scene.

“He has earned the right to enjoy it all.”

While Cotto has accepted that he cannot do anything about the gulf in popularity between him and his upcoming foe, he knows he is in control of the most important aspect of this whole event—fight night.

And for all the adoring worshippers that collect at his feet with every step, Manny Pacquiao, Cotto said, will be left to fend for himself once the two boxers are let loose in the middle of the ring on Nov. 14.

“Nobody can come in there to help Manny,” Cotto told reporters present. “Once the fight starts, there is only going to be me, Manny and the referee. No one else will be there in the ring. Nobody can help Manny or give him something to hit me with.”

Pacquiao arrived at the venue wearing a brown coat over a green shirt. And although he came late for the event, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air, one that caught fire each time television cameras panned to groups carrying Philippine flags or fight-related shirts and souvenirs.

He waltzed through interviews with his usual canned responses of doing his best for his countrymen and fighting hard enough to cement his legacy.

“If I win a seventh title in another weight, it will be history,” said Pacquiao. “This is a very important fight for me and I am very focused for this fight.”

For his part, Cotto said he wasn’t worried about Pacquiao’s speed, the overwhelming factor that has placed the General Santos City native as the odds-on favorite in possibly every proposition cooked up by sports bookies, because his camp has come up with solutions to negate that.

“We’ve studied him and we’re prepared for his speed,” said Cotto. “I have hand speed like Manny.”

“But can Manny's power equal Miguel Cotto's on Saturday night? I am very calm. I have been doing this for many years,” Cotto said in an interview with Reuters.

Cotto also dismissed claims that he was struggling to make the weight. Although the Puerto Rican’s cheeks looked more hollowed out than usual, there was none of the signs, indeed, of a person crash-dieting to make a certain weight limit.

He had a light spring in his step and he wasn’t cranky at all. “I’m not worried about my weight,” he said. “I’m eating well.”

Source: http://sports.inquirer.net/breakingnews/breakingnews/view/20091111-235604/It-was-Mannys-stage-in-Las-Vegas

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for this fight to happen. Those two are a talented bunch and their sure going to give everyone one hell of a fight


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