By Eric Raskin
The last time a major pay-per-view boxing event invaded the Las Vegas Strip, the final formal press conference featured trash talk and name-calling, and by the weigh-in, one fighter even had his hand on the other’s throat. If you know anything at all about Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, you know you’ll never see that kind of behavior out of them.
Floyd Mayweather believes in marketing an event with prefight theatrics. Pacquiao and Marquez believe in letting the fight speak for itself. The fierce in-ring rivals simply have too much respect for each other outside the ring to do it any other way.
Everywhere you looked and listened during Wednesday’s presser at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre, respect was in the air.
“Both of you have comported yourselves the way real sportsmen should behave,” promoter Bob Arum told the combatants before welcoming them to the microphone. “There hasn’t been one bit of trash talk, there hasn’t been one bit of vulgarity.”
“I don’t like talking outside the ring. I do my job in the ring,” Marquez said in his ever-improving English.
“I’m praying that nobody fighting on Saturday night will get hurt,” Pacquiao noted. Then, in case anyone misinterpreted the remark, he added with a laugh: “Well, not badly hurt.”
A few minutes before the press conference began, I asked Pacquiao whether his rivalry with Marquez had developed any sort of a personal edge, particularly with Marquez publicly insisting that he deserved to win each of their first two bouts.
“Before this fight, he was wearing T-shirts saying ‘I Beat Manny Pacquiao Twice’ and ‘I Was Robbed,’ but I’m not angry to Marquez,” Pacquiao responded. “He has the freedom to do that. For me, inside my heart, he’s my friend. But in the ring, we have business to do.”
It’s this attitude that has endeared the Filipino icon to so many fans over the years, and to attempt a tough-guy act even remotely resembling that of Mayweather would cut deeply against what draws the masses to Pacquiao. He values professionalism over sensationalism. And the same is true of Marquez. Their shared attitude is, essentially, if you were stirred by their first two fights and believe this one will be comparably action-packed, you’ll tune in, and they’re not going to pretend to hate each other in order to convince you.
“It’s amazing to have a trilogy this dead-even through 24 rounds,” Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer said at the press conference, “and so exciting from the first round of the first fight through the last round of the last fight.”
That’s precisely why Pacquiao-Marquez III was made. The first two fights were both classics. And the men behind them are both class acts.
If you want a memorable press conference, look elsewhere. If you want a memorable boxing match, you’re in the right place.