Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will face off in Macao on Nov. 23, and faced off in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon, at a Top Rank press conference to hype their PPV scrap.
Promoter Bob Arum presided over the event, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which was the final leg of a 23,722-mile trek to hype Pacman's comeback.
The Congressman, looking to show the world that his December KO loss at the right hand of Juan Manuel Marquez hasn't left lingering mental or physical effects, seeks to halt a two-fight slide against Rios, who has been on his best behavior on the tour, treating it almost like a sightseeing-filled vacation, more than an opportunity to create buzz with combative trash talk.
The media tour began last week in Asia and included stops in Macau, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore. This week's U.S. phase of the tour had a full-day of interviews at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and press conferences in New York and LA. Joining Pacquiao and Rios at the hotel was trainers Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia, Rios' manager Cameron Dunkin, HBO PPV guru Mark Taffet, fighter Zou Shiming, Pacman advisor Michael Koncz, and Edward Tracy, President and CEO of Sands China Ltd.
Arum started out talking about the promise China holds, with 1.4 billion citizens present. He called the Macao PPV "historic" and "memorable." He said the headline bout would be a "fight for the ages," and Rios nodded his head vigorously.
Arum gave a snippet account of the visit to each leg of the hype tour. He was wowed by elements of each location, he said. "I think the fighters will tell you they were blown away by Signapore and whatever else they saw in China," he said.
Arum introed Pacquiao ( seen above, with Rios in LA pose-off, in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) as a giant of charitable giving, as he provides scholarships, and so much more, with his purse money. He campaigns against sex trafficking, Arum said, and is a "man who is making a diffference, a man who counts."
Pacman thanked God for everything and said he's looking forward to training. "We've been flying all over the world," he said, admitting he didn't love the Signapore to NY leg. He thanked the media, and the fans for their support. He invited them to the "big event" in Macao. He said he picked Rios because he didn't want a tuneup fight, and Rios will help give "more action in the ring." He promised a "memorable" fight and finished by saying, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me."
Arum said he was worried about pressers in China, because he knew Rios is sometimes "a little careless with his language" and China isn't afraid to punish verbal missteps. But, "he was so charming and so funny that the Chinese really loved him," the promoter said. Arum told him he did a "terrific job" repping the US.
Rios spoke and said he couldn't cuss in China, but it was still great. He thought China had a lot of ghettoes with poor kids running around but his view changed. "China was badass," he joked. He said this fight is his "first rodeo" but he will be ready. "He ain't no joke," he said, and will assume Manny will be in top form. He said "thank you" in Chinese and was happy when he seemed to get it out correctly.
Arum then showed an excerpt from the movie "Manny," set to be released on Nov. 13.
Freddie Roach, in his turn at the mike, called Rios a "very tough opponent" and said Pacman will train the whole time in the Philippines.
Arum brought Pacman attorney Franklin Gacal to the mike. Gacal said there are a few good reasons to watch the bout. First, this is the first time people can watch a second term Congressman fight. Foes are now worried that he will run for President, he said. Also, both men are coming off loses. "This fight is the real hunger games," he said.
Arum said he expects a sellout and noted there will be closed circuit at the Sands. He announced Dunkin, who doesn't like to talk much. Next up, Arum brought up Garcia. The Rios trainer said the trek has been a good experience for him and Rios. He said everyone has been "respectful" and "kind" to them. But on fight night, inside the ring, "they will not be friends."
The promoter also brought Zou to the mike; he said Zou will fight an eight rounder on the Pacman card, and will train in the Philippines, with trainer Roach, and Pacman. Zou spoke Chinese, and an interpreter offered a translation.
Arum touted a media package, which includes a roundtrip flight, from LA, San Fran or NY to Macao, and seven nights lodging, for $1500. Only accredited media will make the cut, he said. He said media will eat in the press room enough to make food costs reasonable.
HBO's Taffett said on Nov. 2 HBO will show Max Kellerman's Face Off, with Pacman and Rios, and the first episode of the 24/7 docu-mercial will kick off on Nov. 9. Also, HBO will show the weigh in, the day before the bout.
All in all, it was professional and streamlined show. There was no trash talk, no hint of malevolnce, mostly marketing going on. No, not overly compelling, but this is the boxing business, and business was front, center, and everywhere, on this day.
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