LAS VEGAS - Manny Pacquiao may or may not have ascended to the top of boxing's pound for pound list, and he may or may not have the most fanatic following in fisticuffs.
However it would be near impossibly hard to dispute either of those categorizations if you were inside a punch crazed Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday night as Pacquiao clobbered David Diaz.
"I don't like to compare myself to other fighters," said Pacquiao. "If I'm the best pound for pound is for others to decide. I'm just a fighter who wants to make his fans happy. My goal is to fight great and show my boxing skills every time."
Pacquiao's skill and Diaz's guts were in prominent evidence, but as a fight, it was really no contest.
Pacquiao's large, finely festive contingent of vocal followers showed up on the Strip near full strength to represent him, and Pacquiao showed up in the ring near full strength to represent them.
The result was a duke-out party the like of which are seldom seen, even in this hotbed of hammering heroes. From the looks of the ringside area, most of the fans were on cellphones taking pictures of boisterous babes and sending raucous reports back to the Philippines.
Prefight questions centered around familiar themes about carrying power in Pacquiao's move up in weight.
There were no such inquiries once the brawl began.
From the looks of Diaz's bloody face, the answer came in bright red. Diaz never quit firing back, but he was pretty much out of the bout by the third frame.
That was fine with the assembled swarm, who witnessed the almost literal equivalent of the old bull and matador cliche.
Looking around the casino, one got the impression that Filipino tourists are a lot better mannered than their USA counterparts, even to the refreshing point of singing along to America's National Anthem.
With temperatures around 115 degrees, lots of goobers tried to show they were the hottest game in town. The Filipino faithful stayed calm, cool, and collected with confidence in their man.
New, motion type billboards around town advertised tickets to get in the building for "as little as $399.” Considering the cost of fuel while goons zoomed around in SUVs, and how many dead soldier cans of beer and Red Bull littered the parking lot, that price was a relative bargain.
It seemed like a Family Stone "family affair" for "hot fun in the summertime." And as fight night grew closer it seemed more and more there might be a "riot going on.” Pacquiao certainly wanted to take his crowd higher, and he did, with more apparent energy than for many big Sin City fights.
Tickets to Pacquiao's "official after party" were hard to come by. You could have charged entrance fees to the postfight press conference, where Pacquiao's posse numbered in the non-media hundreds.
The hardest question asked involved whether Pacquiao would meet Ricky Hatton, one of the few campaigners with similar appeal. Promoter Bob Arum said they were looking at the first half of next year.
Whoever Pacquiao meets next time, count on another classy, crazy crowd. Hatton's troops certainly chug more brews, but Pacquiao's followers act like they've been there before, probably because many of them have.
"It's a big honor for me and my country," reflected Pacquiao beforehand. "This really is for the Filipino people."
Dozens of Filipino flags waved prouder than ever. It seemed like half of the crowd of 8,362 (Arum indicated Bush era economics hurt the box office) had signs proclaiming "Pac-Man #1 P4P".
In the long run of punches thrown, maybe, maybe not.
But Saturday night in Vegas, there was no doubt about it.
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