Las Vegas and the Final Fight of Manny Pacquiao
By: Matthew N. Becher
Entering the MGM grand, opening the lobby doors to see a full sized ring with Golden Lion statue situated in the center, you knew that something was going on. Little else gave any indication to that. In years past, when the “Pride of the Philippines” Manny Pacquiao was set to fight in Las Vegas, the buzz surrounding the event was almost always at a fever pitch. For his final fight last night against former foe Timothy Bradley Jr. you hardly seemed to hear a whisper or any talk among patrons.
In the decade of the 2000s, when Pacquiao was named the BWAA “Fighter of the Decade”, people traveled in droves. The Filipino community would travel well for his fights. The “High Rollers” would also be present, as well as Hollywood celebrities that loved the fighter were constantly seen at his training sessions at the Wild Card gym would show up front row. Manny was a top seller in the business, whose tickets were hot and pay per view sales were among some of the greatest of all time. This time not so much. Most of the people we encountered were wearing shirts and hats from the previous night’s Guns n Roses reunion concert. What happened?
The box office announced that ticket prices would be dropped early yesterday morning in Vegas. Talks of Pay per View doing under 400 thousand buys were being circulated and people were wondering how an event that cost $24 million dollars would be able to see any of that money back. After speaking with ESPN writer Dan Raphael, we asked “how do you explain this fights Buzz compared to previous Pacquiao events”, his response “you can’t, this one doesn’t have it”.
As we watched the “No Trump” undercard that Bob Arum and Top Rank put together, it was very noticeable how empty the MGM Grand Arena was, Turquoise seats everywhere. Fights usually fill up the closer it gets to the major fights, but this was empty and that was consistent all the way up to the co-main event, a Title fight between legendary Arthur Abraham and newly crowned champ Gilberto Ramirez.
It was all a sad way to see the great Manny Pacquiao go out. After all he has given to the sport, a bad performance against Mayweather ruined all of this? No celebrities were ringside, most likely because of the anti-gay statements Manny had made a month ago, they could not take the chance of having their names connected with supporting Manny. It didn’t seem fair that a man who gave so much to the sport of boxing was just being given up on.
As the second to last fight ended and the ring was cleared, you could see that more and more people started arriving. People wearing the Philippine flag like capes. People of all walks of life, color and nationality wearing Pacquiao shirts began to take their seats. They may have been die hard boxing fans, or merely casual ones, but they were, without a shadow of a doubt, Manny Pacquiao fans, and they were there to see their favorite fighter, do what he does best in his final time in the ring.
From the ring walk, it happened. The place returned to that Buzz that was missing. People forgot all about the Floyd fight, they didn’t care about his remarks, all they cared about was watching a man that always puts on a great fight do his thing. Manny did do his thing, looking as good as he ever has in his previous three fights against Bradley, even scoring two knockdowns in the process. The arena was on its feet for almost the entire fight, screaming and chanting “Manny, Manny, Manny”. They cheered for his flurries, and took photos of the action, they waited to hear his “retirement” speech with Max Kellerman on HBO. They gave him the proper sendoff he deserved and in turn they were all treated to a great performance by a boxer that may only come around once in a generation. The Fighting Pride of the Philippines got his final victory in unanimous fashion last night, and it was just how it should have been.