by Peter Nelson
As Antonio Margarito ran mitts with trainer Robert Garcia at a public workout in a hotel convention center, Manny Pacquiao sat at his hotel suite’s dining room table, surrounded by friends who were watching him play Plants versus Zombies on his iPad.
In four days they will enter the same ring at the same time, but within that hour on Tuesday, Margarito would depart and Pacquiao would descend freight elevators through the bowels of the Gaylord Texan Resort to reach the ring his imminent opponent had just exited. (The public at back-to-back workouts have the opportunity to be both lazy and fickle, and once the Filipino arrived and the Mexican was out of earshot Margarito’s fans wasted no time to become Pacquiao’s.)
In the morning, Pacquiao had run at the Mustang-Panther stadium track and his workout that afternoon proved more substantial than Margarito’s, who had never intended even to run mitts until obliging a favor of his public relations man for the needs of the press corps. Midway through his mitt work with trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao hit the trainer flush with a hook by accident, followed by another punch that clipped Roach, causing him to bite into his tongue. After two liver shots later from his next two trainees (junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.), Roach thought to quit his job, but continued, realizing that apart from a telemarketing stint in the 1980s he has no other substantial professional skills on
which to fall back.
While Pacquiao completed his workout, Margarito headed to a Mexican meal with his wife and managers. His cornerman Robert Garcia hung back at the hotel with his prospect Brendan Rios, as the two bet each other a paid Mexican cruise on the outcome of the Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana fight on December 11 (Rios bet on Maidana, and Garcia took Khan). One story above them across the hotel, Pacquiao had traded Plants versus Zombies for the Apostles’ Creed, leading a chant of the rosary among his entourage. Having flown last week to America from General Santos, Philippines, Pacquiao’s mother had told the press earlier that day that Margarito would be her son’s last challenger. After the rosary, she’d dance through the atrium of the hotel on her way to sing karaoke as her son was given a massage. From Margarito’s choice of cuisine to Pacquiao’s rosary with his mother, an air of homesickness permeated the hotel and the camps of the fighters, each man perhaps sensing he is about to go somewhere from which he will never return.
The fight is four days away.