LAS VEGAS – Inside the MGM Arena, before a sellout crowd and millions of eyes watching in their homes, nothing prepares you for that “Fight of the Century.”
Everything collided for attention. The flashing neon lights — so bizarre and beautiful — raced on and off, glittered, blinded and confused.
There was no time in this city, no night, day or future to take your breath away. It gave you a heady feeling of being on a stage, part of a pageant or at a carnival in a phantasmagoria.
It is a Disneyland for adults– its flamboyance gave an extraordinary vigor, a world apart so vibrantly decadent, perhaps the most fun; albeit, the most sinful place on earth since God torched sodom and Gomorrah.
The bout itself was noisy and chaotic like everyone was on fire and as it rolled into the fifth round onward, the Filipino Reporters (as we are dubbed) felt like we were in the middle of a prison riot and experienced ADD. It was vividly atmospheric: the color, the entire MGM Grand arena’s spectacle flashing courage and fear, speed and angst, waiting for “suspect” decision, boos and thunderous roars of all emotions from an over-enthused, over-caffeinated and inebriated crowd.
Mayweather and Pacman, two impossibly fit brawlers, showed their sculpted abdomens and publicly paraded in their underwears like stallions in Ascot amidst adoring fans, bordering on insanity.
It was an explosion that nobody could avoid as you looked for signs of infinitesimal ones open to interpretation. For Mayweather, Pacman could have wrecked his entire career in one evening.
Mayweather, in that affected nonchalance and detached sense of superiority against Pacman, carried himself with the glow of a very dangerous intruder.
Mayweather fights when, where and who he wants like the god of boxing on whose defensive mastery is common knowledge. Both wanted to be the one with his arms raised at the end of that Saturday fight. Pacman picked up certain flows and exploited them — he could have given Mayweather a lot of trouble.
Pacman’s most famous quote before the bout was “I have already accomplished great accomplishments in my career, while excelling in different weight divisions. The fight is an additional achievement.”
The Fil-Ams, in their palm sweating bravado merged into one apolitical, non-regional conveyance, pumping their fists in unison, their voices soaring in collective roar even. If they couldn’t match their American counterparts, loud and clear, they rooted and ranted for their now almost God: Congressman Pacquiao.
They brought their whole kit and caboodle to this city, from grandmothers to grandchildren, as if they were going to witness something historic and they had to be there.
Pacquiao is a massive source of national pride and is an inspiration, dubbed “Ang Pambansang Kamao.” To see him come so far and make a massive mark on the world stage heightened the pride of the rabid Filipino fan.
By the time the fight rolled into the fifth round, passions were so inflamed and everyone was ready to explode, as thousands of unswayable supporters from both sides, including neutral fans, chanted until the ground rumbled like a big earthquake.
The fight ended as media men have been trying to discover new and compelling stories if the two met inside the rings, after years of speculation and months of intensive hype.
Pacquiao pursued an opponent who danced, played defense and landed enough timely punches to win a decision.Mayweather controlled a boring fight (not even close to cheap thrills in the biggest betting event in boxing history!) by staying on the move, keeping out of range, clinching or speeding away whenever Pacquiao came too close.
He waved his fist in the air and taunted Pacman even before a decision rang out. Even if he won the fight convincingly, by outboxing and outworking Pacman — who used angle and power to awesome effect — there are those who simply cannot see beyond the hatred for the undefeated champion.
The inflated prices for tickets, pay-per-view, hotel rooms and merchandise and everything were hiked up all over town and benefitted Vegas.
The fight wasn’t even about unifying a weight class, but about legacy and history. “Money,” as Mayweather is called, was just looking to stay perfect while Pacman hoped to be the first man to defeat him as a pro.
These were all kinds stars present in the crowd: from Clint Eastwood to Robert de Niro, to athletes Michael Jordan and Tom Brady and Paris Hilton, a star for no apparent reason. The fight started at 8:58 pm and the let down hit at 9:44 pm (the agony and ecstasy when the last punches were thrown).
Forget about the showdown. There was only one unavoidable question: who’s going to win the fight? Forget about the fight. We’re talking about las Vegas, the real big winner in dollars and in hype, bigger than New Year’s Eve, with more than 300,000 visitors that packed the city at fever pitch and eclipsed everything.
The media waited for the obvious decision to be announced — a boring decision in favor of Money. For the first time in years, there was no mad scramble for post-fight press conference seats, unlike previous ones.
The most beautiful part of the evening was when I got pushed around from the designated media seats and found myself ringside beside Floyd Sr. I had this sparkling conversation with the coach trainer, he said if he wanted “a poetic victory for his son, this was just a common fight. Manny is just an opponent.” He (as the trainer) advised his son, especially if he wanted to get to the end with the Zero “I think he should quit, because if you stick around somebody will get you, eventually.
Sir, when your son said “my frame of mind is to be smart, listen to this man right here, because without my father, I wouldn’t be where I am at all,” I saw your eyes twinkle like all fathers, proud of their sons.
“Of course, who wouldn’t lady?,” Floyd Sr. said.
“I don’t think it was much of a fight, I wasn’t expecting an entertaining bout.”
Sir, they say that Floyd Jr. doesn’t brawl, as crowds want to see, big punches and sturdy toe to toe.
He replied “he fights the way Floyd fights and doesn’t let others dictate his style” and added “I am going to let Freddie rest. I don’t have anything else to say about him.”
He ended the conversation, with the self-praise: the best, I must confess, all the rest? There’s no contests.”
But like everything in boxing, there is room for disagreement.