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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pacquiao keeps it light at media day

By the time he arrived, the throng of already anxious reporters and photographers was beginning to jostle one another nervously. "Manny time," apparently, doesn't take deadlines into consideration.

But just as soon Manny Pacquiao walked into the Wild Card gym, where he has been training for the last month in anticipation of his March 13 fight against Joshua Clottey, flashed his famous smile and began walking and talking through the gauntlet, producers were exhaling and all was forgiven.

Pacquiao laughed, he joked, he answered questions posed by reporters from Hollywood, reporters from the Philippines, reporters from who knows where. He was patient and good natured -- a far cry from many big-time athletes who don't understand the importance of working the crowd. Especially this crowd.

It was media day, and if boxing itself doesn't draw a strange assortment of characters, media day ensures it. Alongside dozens of grizzled veteran boxing writers was a man hoping to sell Pacquiao's people on the 14 episodes he's produced on-line of "Minny Pacquiao," a YouTube favorite that features a pint-sized Pacquiao billed as "Manny Pacquiao's shortest, biggest fan," another man hawking custom-fitted mouthguards, two women with a banner promoting Manny Villar for president of the Philippines, and fight promoter Bob Arum, who was telling anyone who would listen that the Floyd Mayweather camp deliberately put out misinformation that Pacquiao is using a drug invented by the Philippine army that negates pain when a soldier is shot.

And all that was in addition to the usual suspects who hang at Hollywood's Wild Card gym. The gym is owned and run by the renowned and immensely respected Freddie Roach, whose crew includes his brother, Pepper, and one-eyed Shane Langford, whom Roach found living on the streets years ago and gave a place to sleep (at the gym) and a job. (Langford's eye is permanently closed after a 2005 knockout.)

Pepper and Shane are like a two-man comedy team. Pepper routinely hands visiting women a slip of paper, he says, with his number. The paper reads 911. "If my wife answers hang up," he says, to which Shane interjects, "And my number is 411. Same thing."

They are delightful and warm, the kind of people who lend credibility to the crazy family theory that envelopes us all. In the midst of the two-plus hour media session, one of the security guards yells, "Silver Rav-4," which means that a silver Rav-4 car is blocking someone's exit in the jammed parking lot behind the gym, where cars are double and triple parked.

No one responds, which causes Pepper to yell to the guard, "Say it in English."

Laughter is a big part of Wild Card and laughter is a big part of Pacquiao's schtick as he moves, one by one, through the media hoard, including entertaining questions from a crew from "Sports Soup." Later, he'll be on Jimmy Kimmel, again.

On Thursday, the Mayweather-Mosely circus comes to Los Angeles. It's hard to imagine their circus being more colorful than the one Pacquiao, Arum and Freddie Roach produced on Wednesday. You just can't make this stuff up.

Author: Shelley Smith

Source: sports.espn.go.com

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