(Manny Pacquiao makes weight; photo courtesy Top Rank)
MACAU -- Today's early morning weigh-in at The Venetian went by largely without a hitch, with Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios both in fighting shape and under the welterweight limit. Pacquaio came in at a muscular 145 lbs, while Rios was a slightly softer 146.5 lbs. The Oxnard based slugger didn't look like an exhumed corpse, which should be taken as a good sign given his track record of missing weight.
There were around 1000 fans in the Cotai Arena to see Pacquiao tip the scales. While China's Zou Shiming got a big cheer when he made the flyweight limit, the crowd's enthusiasm was mainly saved for Pacquiao. There were chants of "Manny, Manny" and boos for Rios, who lapped it up.
As for the undercard fighters, there was nothing much to report; Billy Dib nearly missed the featherweight limit, originally weighing in at 126.5 lbs. Luckily he was wearing the heaviest underpants in the world, and dropped half a pound when he dropped his dacks. His opponent, Evgeny Gradovich was a comfortable 125.75 lbs.
Heavyweight Andy Ruiz, Jr. came in at a big 257 lbs, but didn't look quite as fat as last time out. There were some unkind remarks from the crowd comparing his chest to the Top Rank girls', but he actually has the slightly deflated look of a man who's losing weight. His opponent Tor Hamer was a much trimmer 220 lbs.
And Felix Verdejo's Thai opponent Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan (Michael Buffer looked very pleased with himself when he nailed that) was 1.5 lbs over the lightweight limit but couldn't have given less of a shit. He also won the award for the day's best underpants with his cheetah print briefs.
Don't follow boxing very often, but want to know the gist of Saturday's mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios? Follow boxing all the time, and want one place that rounds up all the links about the welterweight showdown you could ever want? This Ultimate Guide to the Nov. 23 pay-per-view event known as "The Clash in Cotai" is for you, no matter what kind of fan you are.
This weekend's blockbuster fight in the casino capital of China, Macau, is a very specific kind of gamble by the promoter, Top Rank, which is putting its money machine Manny Pacquiao into a bout with Brandon Rios that could spell the end of his career if it goes wrong. The bookies, and no doubt Top Rank, view the fight as a calculated risk that is more calculation than risk.
The calculation goes like this: Pacquiao, having struggled in two consecutive losses to crafty technicians -- once legitimately, to Juan Manuel Marquez, and once farcically, to Timothy Bradley-- looks his best against Hungry, Hungry Hippos-style brawlers. That's Rios. A win in an exciting fight where Pacquiao resembles his old self restores some of the luster to one of the two linchpins of Top Rank's bid to open up China and the Asian market as a whole, which has Bob Arum seeing dollar signs on the inside of his eyelids. (At the very least, much like the physical confrontation between members of team Pacquiao and team Rios this week, Arum sees the Chinese location for the fight as a potential hook for news coverage.)
The risk goes like this: Pacquiao might not have recovered from his knockout by Marquez, in which case Rios is the exact fighter to crush him for good and maybe even do permanent damage.
What I see is a fight that very well could go spectacularly awry for Pacquiao, but most likely will not.
MACAU -- Greetings again from paradise the novelty size chandelier capital of the world. I heard you like notes, so I put some more notes in your notes. The main action today was a pair of roundtables with trainers Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia. Roach is a media tart (and I mean that in the best possible way) and the press love him for it. Garcia, meanwhile, is building a bit of a following of his own with his “hola-fellow-well-met” routine.
David Beckham was also in town to announce a partnership with The Venetian. At the end of a lengthy press conference, I don’t think anyone in attendance would have been able to tell you what exactly that partnership entails. So that was fun. He’ll be at the fights, though, which is cool, I guess.
There was a fair bit of talk about Pacquaio fighting that guy whose name starts with M and ends with –ayweather, but it’s the usual bait-and-switch that happens before every fight so we’re just going to pretend it never happened. Anyway, you asked for notes (at least I think you did), here are the notes:
Brandon Rios knows how to have a good time. While getting hit in the face for sexual pleasure is usually reserved for members of the U.K.’s House of Lords, Rios is taking it to the masses. Too bad HBO declined to caption the moment he said “I busted a nut in the big one.” Poor deaf people, they will never know the full magic of Rios’ special brand of stupidity. The TQBR staff know it all too well, though, and we surveyed them about everything boxing and orgasm related. Well, not everything. That would be gross.
Mind. Matter. How do Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios stack up in those categories? In a combined, abridged version of the usual two-part series, we examine both the more mental and more physical attributes of the two combatants.
(That's not a footprint on Freddie Roach's chest, in case you were wondering)
MACAU -- So it turns out that Macau is actually a pretty strange place to hold a big boxing event. Having never been here before, I had it in my head that it was some kind of Bizarro-Asian-Vegas. But the comparison only really holds if you’re talking about them both having lots of big casinos.
Macau, it seems, is not a place to party. It’s a place where the very serious business of gambling happens. Nobody is walking around whooping and hollering, everyone is sitting down, playing baccarat with grim determination.
Do most of the people here (the vast, vast majority of whom are mainland Chinese) realise that there’s a fight on Sunday? I don’t think so. Top Rank Promotions chief Bob Arum told me that when you break down ticket sales, the majority are going to Hong Kong Chinese and Filipinos.
There’s a ring set up in one of The Venetian’s labyrinthine corridors with a countdown to the main event (two days, 10 hours last time I looked), but apart from that it seems like business as usual.
The brawl yesterday seems to have broken things up a bit, though, and drawn a lot of press interest (which might have been the point). Tim’s blog on it was excellent and hilarious, and I think the Guardian’s Bryan Armen Graham (whose blog I contributed reporting to) also had a pretty smart take.
Below are some quotes from various people of interest (including Freddie Roach and Bob Arum, as well as Larry Merchant, who will be calling the international broadcast) that I’ve bumped into around the place:
So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2013, Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios on HBO pay-per-view on Nov. 23. Previously: a special edition of TQBR Radio; what's at stake. Next: keys to the fight.
As you read this, I’m on my way to China to cover Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios (and hopefully do a bit of accidental Chinese hipster spotting). As always, we have a ridiculous amount of content for one of the year’s biggest fights, which I fully recommend you check out as the week progresses. Today I’m taking a look at the undercard (such as it is) as well as the week’s other boxing events (in case too much boxing is never enough).
Boxing isn't just a sport of punching; it's also a sport of kicking, sometimes, or mocking people's diseases, or calling someone a "fucking Mexican." The camp scuffle Tuesday between Manny Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, Brandon Rios trainer Robert Garcia, Rios strength and conditioning coach (and ex-Pacquiao strength and conditioning coach) Alex Ariza, as well as various other camp members, is the kind of soap opera that gets fight fans all in a tizzy. As such, there's about a 35 percent chance the whole thing was staged to sell Pacquiao-Rios Saturday on HBO pay-per-view, available now for the low, low price of...
Anyway, the above is just one of a fewvideos used to shed some light on the whole lot of them covering themselves in glory. Let's score the contestants! Points awarded purely on aggression.
Freddie Roach: Roach kinda initiates the whole thing with his ultra-angry demands that the Rios camp exit the hotel gym. I don't care whose time it was or wasn't, although the story seems to be that Roach wanted to get started at 11 as he expected to and the Rios camp was asked to do a few interviews in exchange for a few extra minutes beyond their alloted time. All I see is Roach calling Garcia a "piece of shit" with almost no provocation. Then, when someone (apparently Ariza) shouts at him to leave, Roach takes another escalating step with his "Make me!" talk. Everyone from the 1st grade to grown-ups in hick bars knows that's an invitation to fisticuffs. Then, when a voice that sounds like Ariza mocks Roach's Parkinson's, Roach takes some confrontational steps toward Ariza. After the two sides are separated, Roach exchanges words with some random Mexican-looking fellow I don't know, and refers to him as a "Mexican motherfucker." It is alleged that he referred to videographer Elie Seckbach as a "fucking Jew," but there is no video evidence that has yet surfaced. [UPDATE: Actually, yes some has. Approximately 2:50, h/t @smmhussain, and Edwin in the comments section.] All in all, Roach is most to blame for putting people in a position for things to get physical. SCORE: 8/10 [UPDATED SCORE 9/10, FOR USING "FUCK" IN REFERENCE TO MORE THAN ONE ETHNIC GROUP]
Alex Ariza: You might know Ariza from such classics as "chasing writer Gabe Montoya around the parking lot of the Wild Card Gym but nobody punching each other" (allegedly), but here Ariza is the party that made the most solid physical contact. Ariza struck first and last, kicking Roach, apparently in his chest. CompuKick determined Ariza had a a perfect 1/1 connect ratio. His taunting of Roach both triggered Roach's "Why don't you make me" quotes and, once Ariza mocked Roach's disease, triggered Roach's confrontational steps. But Ariza didn't end there! He's got that ambition, baby, look in his eyes. Besides taunting a guy for having Parkinson's, and kicking a guy who has Parkinson's, he called Roach a "faggot" and wouldn't stop with the faux-stuttering. [UPDATED: Ariza has reportedly told writers that he was calling someone else a faggot, not Roach. h/t @realspitts @axmcc] Roach might have been the one most to blame for the escalation, but Ariza was the one who most rolled around in the ugliness of it all. SCORE: 10/10 [NO UPDATE TO SCORE; CALLING ANYONE A FAGGOT IS PRETTY AGGRESSIVE, ESPECIALLY SOMEONE YOU JUST KICKED, BUT IF HE WAS TARGETING SOMEONE ELSE WITH THE REMARK THAT MEANS HE WAS KIND OF MACHINE-GUNNING WITH HIS AGGRESSION, WHICH IS JUST AS AGGRESSIVE IN A DIFFERENT WAY]
Garcia: Who's this guy think he is, Gandhi? Or just someone with class? I scoff. Garcia apparently did nothing wrong other than stand his ground. Maybe he shouldn't have. It is also alleged by Roach that Garcia told him to "go fuck yourself," although there is no video evidence of this to date. Then, as Roach was backed away by security and his team, Garcia protested Roach's disrespect and continued to inform Roach that he had always respected him. What a piece of shit, amirite? SCORE: 1/10
"Mexican Motherfucker": I don't know the guy's name. I do know he didn't like to be called a "Mexican motherfucker" by Roach, so I just want to apologize to him for using that nom de guerre. It's in quotes! Upon being called a "Mexican motherfucker," "Mexican motherfucker" was very eager to inflict physical harm on Roach, but was capably held back by security. SCORE: 6/10
Elie Seckbach: Perhaps motivated by his allegiance to Team Garcia, or perhaps because he really was called a "fucking Jew," Seckbach took up his mighty camera and dropped some heavy verbal fire on Roach as he left the room, destroying him with such gems as "don't let the door hit you on the way out!" Somewhere in America, little Jimmy McClain, age 6, is using his underarm to make farting noises in applause. SCORE: 4/10
TQBR reserves the right to change these scores based on additional videgraphical evidence (and already has once). Perhaps some will surface in Thursday's finale of 24/7 Pacquiao/Rios, debuting at 10 p.m. ET, with re-airings at...
So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2013, Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios on HBO pay-per-view on Nov. 23. Previously: a special edition of TQBR Radio. Next: the undercard, previewed.
A creeping sense that Manny Pacquiao's time as one of the world's best prizefighters was coming to an end slowly began invading boxing enthusiasts' perceptions in 2010 -- but the moment when any number of people fully believed it arrived hit like the misbegotten child of a thunderclap and an atom bomb. There have been few more shocking boxing scenes in the new century, maybe none more shocking, than the one that played out the last time we saw Pacquiao in the ring on Dec. 8, 2012 at MGM Grand. In the moments following his defeat, the foremost thought in the minds of Pacquiao's family and many others wasn't whether his career was over; it was whether his life was over. Knockout punches like the one longtime Pacquiao rival Juan Manuel Marquez delivered -- so definitive, so unexpected, so shattering of the sport's landscape -- are equally awe-inspiring and frightening. Fighters have recovered from knockouts like that before. Others never do.
Pacquiao's return to the ring this Saturday would have been greeted with trepidation under any circumstances, but it also comes mere weeks after Frankie Leal died from his ring injuries and Magomed Abdusalamov was placed into a medically-induced coma. Throw in Pacquiao's choice of opponent -- hard-hitting, rugged Brandon Rios, whose in-ring style has inspired its own set of worries about how long he can last in boxing and what will come of his brain once he retires -- and we end up with a fight where If Pacquiao is done on the elite level, Rios is exactly the worst kind of opponent for him to face, and Pacquiao-Rios has a grim spectre hanging over it because of that.
If, however, Pacquiao is right physically, and Rios can adjust to the welterweight division in his 147-pound debut, we could end up with exactly the best kind of opponent for Pacquiao to rebound in spectacular fashion. Rios has only been in one even so-so fight, and that took his opponent, Richard Abril, going out of his way to make it ugly. The man they call "Bam Bam" lives up to his nickname: Hit, and then hit again. He is all offense, no defense, the kind of boxer who thrills the crowd every time out -- and that type is the type that has made Pacquiao look his best, because he struggles with clever counterpunchers like Marquez who don't initiate. And when Pacquiao hits someone who's available for the displeasure with any frequency, he is sensational. Even a diminished Pacquiao could resemble his old self against a man like Rios.
So that's all that's at stake: the career of one of the sport's biggest attractions and best fighters of this era. One route reestablishes him, at least somewhat; another route leaves him in a lackluster limbo; and another route passes the torch, although perhaps with some surrounding darkness.