Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pacquiao popularity faces acid test


WASHINGTON D.C.: Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao’s growing popularity in the United States will put to a crucial test in his coming fight: Can he fill the huge Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas for his March 13 title defense against Joshua Clottey? Pacquiao commands a solid following among Filipino-Americans who number into the tens of thousand in Texas.

He also enjoys a considerable fan base among ethnic Mexicans who are drawn to his explosive, attacking style of fighting which they have come to know through several epic encounters with great Mexican fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Still, his promoter Bob Arum and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have agreed to configure the modern football arena in Arlington, Texas to seat 40,000 to 50.000, which could be expanded depending on demand.

Loyal Pacquiao fans
Avid Pacquiao fans in California do not mind flying all the way to Dallas to watch the fight at the $1.2-billion Jerry World, the other moniker for the venue.

“My sons and I are flying to Texas to watch this fight live,” said businessman-sportsman Bing Manguino of San Jose, California. “I think Pacquiao-Clottey is an exciting matchup, and I certainly do not want to miss this fight.”

Manguino, who has watched all Pacquiao fights in Las Vegas, said he was disappointed by the collapse of Pacquiao’s bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“Too bad Mayweather chickened out from that fight,” said Manguino, a retired Santa Clara County official who frequently commutes between homes in San Jose and Las Vegas. “I’m skeptical if that fight could still be made in the future, but if it does happen I’ll watch it live.”

Manguino said there is no substitute to the thrills and excitement of a live boxing match, adding that affordable ticket rates would be an added incentive for people to attend the boxing event.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix said that ticket prices for Pacquiao-Clottey would range from $50 to $700.

According to Bob Arum, Top Rank is packaging a big fight involving a popular Mexican star in the undercard of the Pacquiao headliner, possibly Antonio Margarito who is hoping to get his license back following an indefinite suspension as a result of the hand wraps controversy in his last fight with Shane Mosley.

Arum said he was delighted to learn that no less than former President George W. Bush, a Dallas native, would be attending Pacquiao’s fight.

Crossover star
Such is the crossover appeal of Pacquiao that even sport-loving top American officials have come to watch his fights.

Before his fight with Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009, Pacquiao personally met with former President Bill Clinton in Las Vegas who wished him well in his shot at Hatton’s junior welterweight crown.

Pinoy boxing pundit Hermie Rivera of Newark, California credits the excitement Pacquiao brings to every fight and his humility in and out of the ring for the Filipino icon’s soaring popularity in the United States.

“Manny Pacquiao is a class act. He has remained simple, unassuming and humble despite his boxing greatness, which is something rare in the sport,” said Rivera, a former boxing promoter said.


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