But the fighting Filipino’s grip on his own people, and his mystique for those outside his own culture, grows exponentially.
Pacquiao now has an entourage of 140 – including his Jack Russell Terrier, ‘Pacman’. That is a larger following than Muhammad Ali ever had. They are all decked out in bespoke red adidas tracksuits and travel in a tour bus skinned with Pacquiao’s face. Wherever he goes, his countrymen move towards him like fireflies in the night lured to a flame. It is hard to think of a sporting icon worldwide who enjoys such … love, from his people.
But Pacquiao is also loved by television executives. He is fighting gold. Mark Taffett, senior vice-president of Home Box Office Sports and Pay-Per-View events, said Pacquiao had become “a megastar” a fact borne out by sales figures.
“Manny Pacquiao is spectacular in and out of the ring. He has taken part in 10 pay per view fights on HBO and generated 5.5 million buys, which created $290 million in revenue. In his last three fights he averaged over one million pay-per-view buys. That alone makes him a pay-per-view megastar. Manny Pacquiao has helped boxing expand beyond the sports pages, into mainstream magazines, and mainstream television.”
Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium which stages Saturday's fight, admitted that he has always been “hands on” in the business.
“This stadium was not for me, not for the players, but for the fans. The fans are the club.” It is expected to be a sell-out crowd on the first fight night ever staged at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, although boxing has been sanctioned in Texas for 79 years by their athletic commission. It is also the first time that HBO have shown boxing from a stadium on PPV, which could signal a new direction for the broadcasting giant.
Jones, who put down a $7 million site fee for ‘The Event’, as it is has been named, said there are a few hundred seats available for the 45,000 capacity stadium. Jones, of course, had originally proffered a $25 million site fee, the largest in boxing history, for Pacquiao-Mayweather to take place here on this date. That would've demanded double the gate, even up to 100,000, to make it financially viable.
If the glazed floor, ultra-comfortable seats, and airiness of the domed monolith to sport were not enough, the two combatants will be 72ft high when they enact their brutal dance on Saturday night, presented on the largest screens in the world. They are also in high definition. The two protagonists have promised a dance fitting of the venue and the occasion. It will have to be.
Bob Arum, who once promoted Muhammad Ali and who says Pacquiao has the same hold over people, said: "He [Pacquiao] has grown up in life after running away from home, fighting for a dollar a time, dedicating his life to his sport, and becoming an icon.
“An even greater story is that he hasn't lost his humanity. With the storm, corruption and poverty in his country, he wants to change that. Be something different. I hope this is the last pre-fight press conference where I introduce him as plain old Manny Pacquiao. I want to introduce him as congressman Manny Pacquiao."
What typified the final head-to-head news conference between Pacquiao and Clottey was the absence of trash talking – and a mention of Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Yet there were plenty of huddles afterwards when Pacquiao, Arum and Roach were asked for their opinions on whether arguably the richest fight in history will ever happen. The answer was the same. Todd DeBoeuf had the most telling reply. “If you want a fight to happen, you make it happen.” The suggestion is that Mayweather, deep down, does not really want this fight with Pacquiao.
"Both sides have not done any trash talking," said Pacquiao, who defends the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title. "We can be a good example to everybody." Clottey concurred "We have a great deal of respect for each other. But nobody has every beat me or cracked me. I want to see what he can do."
Author: Gareth A Davies