LOS ANGELES-Inside the Bonaventure Hotel where dozens of Hollywood movies have been filmed since the building first went up, another star, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, arrives with an entourage on a sunny Tuesday morning.
From room to room he’s led by media television personnel intent on interviewing the Philippine Island’s greatest hero.
Pacquiao calmly undertakes what is now a ritual.
“No, I don’t mind,” said Pacquiao (46-3-2, 35 KOs).
Pacquiao, who captured the WBC junior lightweight title last March, now marches on to attempt yet another division as he challenges Chicago’s David Diaz (34-1-1, 17 KOs) for the WBC lightweight title. The fight takes place on June 28 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. It will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.
There’s no rest for the weary.
Last year he was involved in politics in his home country; this year he’s involved in acquiring what no other Asian fighter dared attempt: a fourth world title.
“Pacquiao is one the brink to become the first Asian fighter to win four world titles in four divisions,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum.
That means a lot to Pacquiao, you can see it in his eyes.
Despite the constant travel, the multiple press conferences planned for San Francisco, Chicago and San Diego, Pacman walks through the process the way an attorney winds his or her way through the legal entanglements on a daily basis. It’s step by step, with the same casual smile and gracious spirit.
The world of boxing now has another super star who’s become an icon not just in the Philippines, but here in the U.S., in Mexico, Europe and even South America. For boxing fans the name Pacquiao means excitement.
Arum spoke of the 400,000 pay-per-view buys garnered when Pacquiao fought Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez. That’s why he’s matched the boxing star with yet another Mexican fighter, albeit a Mexican-American fighter this time.
Diaz is thankful to be considered. Very thankful.
“A lot of people don’t know I stopped boxing for about two years,” said Diaz, who captured the WBC title in 2006. “It’s been rough getting back into it but Bob Arum took me back in.”
Diaz never has an easy fight and expects an even rougher encounter against the fighter many consider the best fighter pound for pound.
“Manny Pacquiao is one of the best in the world,” says Diaz. “I know a lot of writers don’t believe in me.”
The big question is the short jump on weight from 130 pounds to 135 pounds.
It may not seem like much, but it’s a quantum leap in professional boxing. Especially when Pacquiao first began as a 112-pound flyweight. Can he take the punch of a true lightweight? And can he bring the same effect on his punches as he did before?
Diaz feels Pacquiao is walking into his house of terror.
“You guys are going to have fun. I hope this fight is one people talk about for a long time,” said Diaz, expecting yet another toe-to-toe war, given both fighters like to move forward, never backward. “I’m not letting go of this belt.”
Pacquiao merely smiles. He’s heard all the predictions and faced so many previous encounters against the top fighters Mexico has to offer. Now it’s a Mexican-American fighter in front of him.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” says Pacquiao. “The style of David Diaz is very accurate to my style. I’ll try my best to win this fight too.”
Though the Filipino slugger had just stepped off the jet after a long flight over the Pacific Ocean, he seemed as fresh as a ripe orange plucked from a tree.
“It’s going to be more action than the Barrera fight and the Marquez fight because he’s a good fighter and wants to fight toe-to-toe,” Pacquiao said. “I promise to all my fans I will do my best for the honor of my country.”
Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, expects an even tougher fight than the previous two fights because Diaz is a former Olympian (who beat Zab Judah to make the US team) and captured the world title as a professional.
“This is not an easy fight,” said Roach, who begins training Pacquiao this week. “People don’t go to the Olympics and win a world championship by accident.”
Pacquiao remains calm as usual. Accepting challenges great and small are like breathing in and out for the great Filipino fighter. Even if he has to fight three or four times a year.
“Might as well fight now while I’m young,” said Pacquiao smiling.
After the conference ended the dozens of reporters walked down to the parking level. In the last corridor dozens of posters of Hollywood films like Strange Days, True Lies and In the Line of Fire are on the walls. Each film had used the hotel in one or more of their scenes.
Perhaps one day, Pacquiao, who makes films in his native country, might have his face emblazoned on one of those posters.?
Heck, Arnold made it, and he was only a weightlifter.
*photo courtesy of Chris Farina/Top Rank