Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | 7 p.m.
Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) vs. Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs)
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Tickets: Sold out
Closed-circuit viewing: $50; Mandalay Bay, Mirage, TI, Monte Carlo, Circus Circus, Luxor, New York-New York.
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View, $49.95
- No. 1: Predictions and pick ‘ems
- No. 2: Pacquiao, Hatton love Las Vegas
- No. 3: Trainers’ stories hidden behind trash talk
- No. 4: Hatton still a power puncher at heart
- No. 5: Pacquiao is one quick cat
- No. 6: An international affair
- No. 7: ‘The Manchester Mexican’ vs. ‘The Mexi-cutioner’
- No. 8: Watching how a world is watching
- No. 9: A battle between East and West
- No. 10: The biggest chapter in two champions’ storied careers
- It's too bad both can't win (4-27-2009)
- Pacquiao revered by his people (4-26-2009)
- Pacquiao ready to perform for Filipinos (4-25-2009)
- Hatton's fighting chance against Pacquiao (4-23-2009)
- Hatton says he has 'no doubt' he will defeat Pacquiao (4-22-2009)
- Preﬁght hype in full swing (4-20-2009)
- Sideshow battle continues (4-17-2009)
- Calling all fight fans (4-17-2009)
- Pacquiao the prankster (4-16-2009)
- Manny Pacquiao: A good guy and a bad man (4-8-2009)
- Pacquiao, Hatton hit Hollywood (3-31-2009)
- Pacquiao named fighter of the year (3-27-2009)
- Hatton’s got confidence cornered (3-7-2009)
- Fun has begun for Hatton-Pacquiao bout (3-5-2009)
The situation has played out so many times before in his native Philippines that Manny Pacquiao was nearly unfazed when it occurred Tuesday afternoon in the United States.
But Pacquiao’s guest of honor was ill-prepared for the mob scene that spilled out at Mandalay Bay.
While all the attention and excitement was strictly reserved for the pound-for-pound king, Pacquiao’s mother, Dionisia Pacquiao, couldn’t avoid the swaying sea of humanity that engulfed her son.
“I was starting to fill sick,” Dionisia said of the crush of fans and media members who caved in on the “Pac-Man’s” entourage as it exited the touring bus for his grand entrance for Saturday’s megafight against Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand.
“I’m so happy to be here and so proud of my son,” said Dionisia, who only hours earlier touched down in America for the first time ever. “Everything here is so big and the lights are so very bright.”
Her sentiment for the U.S. only grew as about 200 fans filled the cramped lobby area of Mandalay Bay, the hotel Pacquiao stayed in for his first Las Vegas fight and has superstitiously requested ever since.
Many in the congregation, like the large media contingent, showed up to shoot photos and video. A few boxing fans were hoping Pacquiao might autograph a glove or program (no chance, he could barely breathe), but the majority wanted to just get as close as possible, possibly even touch the man himself — creating the real cog in the rolling traffic jam.
But Pacquiao kept on walking.
He quickly moved past a small group of fans from Las Vegas who were holding an oversized sign that read “Pac-Man” emblazoned with a photo of the classic video game icon.
“I just love what he represents,” said Christian Bermudez, who was born in the Philipines but grew up in Los Angeles.
“I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s just such a humble guy. He really brings hope and inspiration to so many Filipinos because they see characteristics of themselves within him.”
As the game plan for talking to media members instantly imploded because of the mass of people, Pacquiao took a quick detour.
He strolled past a couple of small children in strollers, who luckily were not injured as the scene shifted inside to the casino.
Pacquiao made another slow turn behind the gallery of cameramen now resembling paparazzi, which every few feet had to turn and run to get back in front of the fighter.
But Pacquiao marched on, arm-in-arm with Top Rank Chief Bob Arum, who looked a lot less pleased with the suffocating situation than his prized pugilist.
“We’re gonna have to quit doing these arrivals if there’s not better security,” Arum said later. “Something could have gone terribly wrong.”
Pacquiao made another maneuver past a few more gawking tourists who quit playing their slots to see what all the fuss was about, and an unsuspecting cocktail waitress, who nearly got bowled over by media members in the madness, to a bank of elevators and the safety of his room high above.
“You’re not just a boxer, you’ve reached official rock star status,” Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz joked with Pacquiao as a handful of reporters looked on inside his suite.
Pacquiao smiled back and said he was “surprised so many people turned out.”
“It’s bigger than the De La Hoya one,” he said of his arrival for his December “Dream Match,” where he dominated Oscar De La Hoya in his final fight.
Five feet away from her son, Pacquiao’s mother took in the brief respite from the crowd and chatted with Pacquiao’s aunt Lilia Lao, who lives in Virginia.
“I’m the one who always meets him at the airport with a big bouquet of flowers,” Lao said. “We’re all so excited for this one.”
So too was Pacquiao, who was decked out in khaki slacks, a dark coat and Kangol cap, who when asked if he was ready to put all the talking behind and settle the matter in the ring, simply replied: “Yes, I’m ready.”
The madness was a little less maddening down the Strip at the MGM when Hatton, decked out in a bucket hat, shorts and a Hatton-brand T-shirt, hopped out of a gold limo and received a roaring ovation for his grand arrival.
A couple of velvet rope dividers got knocked over, creating a loud bang, but the real noise came when Hatton entered the makeshift ring with the casino’s iconic gold lion in the center.
“Saturday night there’s gonna be a new pound-for-pound king,” said Hatton, as a small group of Brits began the “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” song to the delight of the few hundred in attendance.
“We love him to bits,” said Peter Johns, a resident of Wolverhampton, England, who traveled with his wife and family as well as a few pint-drinking friends by the names of Nick, Gary and “Sausage.”
“Us Englishmen are very proud and I would have paid 10,000 (British) pounds to watch Ricky. If I had to pay 50,000 pounds, I wouldn’t miss this one,” continued Johns, who insisted that despite being in Las Vegas for Hatton’s only career loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., that it wasn’t a sign of bad luck.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about this one mate, Ricky’s gonna win by knockout in the eighth.”
The IBO and Ring Magazine junior welterweight made his way downstairs to conduct interviews with reporters as well as pose for a few photos in the ring.
“I’m so relaxed, some fights in Vegas, mainly the Mayweather one, made for a different occasion,” said Hatton, a 2-to-1 underdog.
“Technically I’m boxing a lot better than I was. Three or four fights ago I think Manny would have beaten me, but I don’t think so now.”
But much like Pacquiao, Hatton said he’s rearing to go on Saturday night and all talked out.
“We haven’t come here to tickle each other,” Hatton joked.
Andy Samuelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-948-7837.