by Kieran Mulvaney
Eight o'clock in the morning is really too early to be watching (mostly) skinny young men stand on bathroom scales in their underwear, and judging from the slightly muted atmosphere in the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena, fighters and fans alike felt the same way. There were hundreds, rather than thousands, for the official weigh-in, staged early in Macau in order to stream live on Friday evening in the United States, but there was no doubt about the allegiance of those who did show up, even if few of them had had the opportunity to caffeinate sufficiently before whooping and hollering for their man.
Not that Brandon Rios cared about the boos from the Filipino contingent, cupping his hands to one ear and then the other, beaming, and making a “Look at me, this is what it’s going to look like when I put a title belt around my waist” motion. That waist, by the way, appeared a little bit more expansive than Manny Pacquiao’s; but then Rios has never possessed the most svelte of physiques. By his standards, though, he looked fighting trim, and actually weighed in one half pound under the 147 lb. welterweight limit.
Pacquiao, as always, looked in perfect shape, and boasted his characteristic beatific smile, soaking up the cheering, struggling as ever to keep from grinning during the face-off with Rios, and then departing the stage – perhaps, like the writers who grumbled about being forced to work so early, to take a nap.
It has been a long and slightly strange week, but now suddenly the end is near. The epithets, the insults, the kicks, the complaints: all are in the past. Pacquiao doesn’t have to see Rios, or vice-versa, for another 26 hours, and the next time they are in each other’s presence will be the only time that matters. The bell will ring, the fight will be on, and the truth will be just around the corner.