by Kieran Mulvaney
A few thoughts and observations after Wednesday's press conference at Cowboys Stadium for Saturday's bout between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito:
Photo by Will Hart
Not That The Fight Needed an Extra edge, But It Has One Now
Antonio Margarito has had plenty of supporters, but it doesn't take much scientific polling to establish that the majority of neutrals are going to be cheering for Manny Pacquiao rather than his Mexican opponent on Saturday night. That threatened to b even more so after a video hit the Internet in which Margarito, lightweight Brandon Rios, and their trainer Robert Garcia appeared to be mocking the Parkinson's Disease of Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach. As outrage began to bubble over, the trio's collective image threatened to morph into one of such cartoonish villainy that it wouldn't have been a surprise if they hit their opponents with folding steel chairs they had hidden under the ring.
Garcia began to offer what seemed like it would be an apology on Wednesday, but instead insisted that not only were Rios' neck-jerking movements not mocking Roach, but that Rios didn't even know the trainer has Parkinson's.
Roach wasn't buying that argument on Wednesday, but by Thursday he was doing his best to calm things down. First Rios, speaking during a press conference for Saturday's undercard, apologized for what he had said and done, and then Margarito made an unscheduled appearance in the media room to explain his actions.
“Some guy showed up at out gym with a video camera, he told me Freddie Roach had said I was going to be knocked out and I shook my hands and said “Ooohh, I'm scared.” I would never make fun of Freddie Roach, or of anyone with that disease. Members of my family have that disease. I apologize to Freddie Roach, if he will accept my apology.”
A few minutes later, Roach told a small knot of journalists that Garcia had contacted him personally.
“Garcia called me, he apologized, he said I'd always helped him, always provided him with sparring partners, and as far as I'm concerned it's over with and let's move on with the fight,” he said. “I think they realize what they did was maybe a bit to much, they went overboard a little bit.”
His biggest concern was to not fan the flames and in the process take Pacquiao's focus off the task at hand.
“Manny heard about it a little bit, but I told him not to worry about it, to stay focused, and he said 'OK.'
Manny can separate that stuff no problem. Some of my fighters I've had – if it had been James Toney, there'd be a fight. But Manny's a calm guy.”
Manny's a politician now
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Manny Pacquiao would stand at the podium, smile in a slightly embarrassed, little-boy-lost sort of way, say, “I love the people and I want to make a good fight for the people,” and sit down again. On Wednesday, he made clear he still loves the people and wants to make good fights for them. And he still sounds so cute when he talks that you want to stick him in your pocket and take him home, but he is much more composed and expansive now, much more confident as a public speaker. He looks every bit the congressman that he now is. When I sat with Alex Ariza, Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, while we were waiting for Pacman to begin his public training session on Tuesday, he offered a similar observation: that it was one thing to be clowing around with Manny in the gym, but another thing entirely to be a guest in the House of Congress, watching Congressman Pacquiao speak to his fellow legislators.
Pacquiao says he has two or three fights left him, but it is now easy to imagine him in another role. The countdown to the end of a great career may be underway.
It's a lot easier to get a handle on how the atmosphere and enthusiasm for a fight is building when that fight is being held in Las Vegas. At Vegas venues, everything – arena, rooms, bars, media center – are all under one roof. Here, you could probably drop Rhode Island between the stadium and the fight hotel and still have room for Delaware. It's a beautiful hotel; but Dallas could be overrun by zombies following a brief thermonuclear war and I wouldn't have a clue.
So is there a big fight buzz in Dallas? Hard to say. But it seems all but certain that attendance on Saturday night will exceed the indoor record of 61,000 for the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks rematch at the Superdome in New Orleans in 1978. The press room on Thursday was a veritable A list of boxing press. The third episode of this season of 24/7 was the highest rated since 2007.
The proof, as the proverb has been mangled to say, is in the pudding. We'll know for sure just how big the buzz has been when the stadium lights go down, the main event is ready to get under way and 50,000, or 60,000 – heck, maybe 70,000 – fans roar in anticipation.