By Jackie Kallen
Live at MGM Grand for BoxingInsider.com
It looked more like a war zone than a weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden this afternoon. Open to the public, the event attracted both Marquez fans and Pacquiao fans. Each group came carrying signs, banners, and flags in honor of their country. The Mexicans were loud and verbal, yelling out “Mexico! Mexico!”
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The Pacquiao fans screamed “Manny! Manny!” and waved their red, white, and blue flag with the yellow sun on it. As they passed other Filipinos, they nodded and gave the thumbs up sign.
The Marquez fans high-fived each other and pumped their fists in the air. It was heated, but friendly. For the most part. Some fans, however, looked like they were taking it all a little too seriously. I saw more than one angry glare.
This long-running rivalry has brought out the best of both groups. Marquez is a hero to Mexicans. They are also cheering for Miguel Angel Vazquez from Guadalajara, who is on the undercard. When their fighters stepped on the scale–the noise was deafening.
The Pacquiao group is also here to support Michael Farenas from Gubat, Philippines. There are two other fighters from the Philippines–Ernie Sanchez and Dodie Boy Penalosa. This quartet of Filipino boxers has a lot of followers.
And we can’t overlook the Cuban fans who are here to support their man Yuriorkis Gamboa. With 50 Cent at his side, Gamboa is garnering attention wherever he goes in the hotel. He has never been recognized this much in his career. He seems to enjoy it immensely.
The arena went wild when Mike Tyson stepped on the stage to act as the “honorary supervisor” of the weigh-in. The fans began chanting “Mike! Mike! Mike!”.
He stepped up to the mic and said “Thank you all. I love you.” This incited them even more. It’s obvious that the iconic boxer is now boxing’s most beloved and adored legend (next to Ali, of course.)
The main event boxers both looked good and in great shape. Manny was smiling and relaxed. He had that deja vu look on his face. This is the fourth time he has replayed this same scene.
For his part, Marquez looked focused and very confident. He kept walking to the edge of the stage and raising his hands in the air. The crowd roared every single time. An applause meter would probably have the Mexican fans as the winners. They were clearly the loudest.
The MGM is packed. Besides the many Mexican, Filipino, African American, white, and Cuban fight fans milling around, there is also the cowboy crowd that is here for the rodeo. With ten gallon hats and cowboy boots, they stare at the fight crowd as if they were aliens. They hoot and holler with a can of beer in their hand and I heard more than one person ask “Is there a fight here this weekend?”
All in all, the atmosphere is fun and enthusiastic. You can cut the electricity in the air with a knife. The bettors were scurrying to the sports book to lay down a bet on 3-1 underdog Marquez. One man pulled me aside and said, “A draw is 17-1. Go put some money on it!”
No matter who wins in the main event, it’s evident that there are many winners this weekend. The MGM, the promoters, the city, and the fans. As they say, “May the best man win.”
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen