Source : Abac Cordero (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines - “He’s like Muhammad Ali now,” said the 79-year-old promoter after the World Press Tour for Pacquiao’s Nov. 12 title fight with Juan Manuel Marquez came to a close at the historic Plaza ala Revolucion.
It was wild and wooly and unbelievably crazy.
The day started early, with the Filipino boxing icon and conqueror of great Mexican champions paying a visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Mexican House of Representatives.
It took him longer than planned and expected to get out of the House because every congressman inside the building wanted to get close to him, greet him personally and have their pictures taken with him.
“Pinagkaguluhan ako (I was mobbed),” said Pacquiao.
Pacquiao must have felt right at home, himself being a congressman in his home province of Sarangani in Mindanao.
“The last time I saw congressmen coming out like that was for Ali in Indonesia in the seventies,” said Arum, who co-promoted the iconic Thrilla in Manila heavyweight battle between Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975.
Pacquiao and his group, together with the local promoters of the day’s big event, moved around town in a convoy of black SUVs, escorted by more than a dozen motorcycle cops in neon green jackets.
Sirens wailed and traffic stopped as the convoy passed through the streets, already adorned with the Mexican colors in anticipation of the forthcoming Independence Day celebration.
It was more than a rock-star treatment, one fit for a king.
After meeting the congressmen, Pacquiao was brought back to the Metropolitan Cathedral where Marquez, who’s had two classic battles with the Filipino in 2004 and 2008, was waiting.
Soon they were together in an open-top, double-decker bus, and the crowd started to gather around them, fans tossing shirts, jackets, caps and backpacks for the boxers to sign and toss back.
They must have planted hundreds of signatures as the crowd chanted their names. It was really hard to tell whom the crowd was rooting for because they chanted the names of both boxers.
Maybe they were rooting for both.
After 30 minutes, the bus moved out of the area on its way to the Plaza ala Revolucion where a bigger crowd had been waiting earlier on. Along the way, people screamed as the bus passed by.
And once they stopped, the bus became a 40-foot magnet. The crowd surged toward the bus, and crowded it so hard that policemen, including those in riot gear, had to step in.
“I thought they would tilt the bus over. I really thought it would. That was pretty funny,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who has his own following among the Mexican fans.
It took the police a few minutes to clear a passage for those in the bus to move out, and run toward a huge, air-conditioned tent for the tour’s final press conference.
Pacquiao and Marquez were brought out to face the crowd under the sun and cool wind.
There was a lot of pushing and shoving from within the crowd, and it almost turned into a riot. Pacquiao said at least two of his bodyguards fell to the ground from all the pushing around him.
“And they were big bodyguards. Tumba talaga. May napilayan pa yata (One even got hurt),” said Pacquiao, who couldn’t believe it himself how they were welcomed here in Mexico City.
“It was crazy and we knew it would happen,” said Top Rank photographer Chris Farina.
Yes, it was crazy.
From the press conference, they were brought back to the St. Regis Hotel for late lunch, and by 4 p.m. they boarded a chopper that took them to Toluca for the ride back to Los Angeles on a private plane.
Roach had opted not to ride the chopper, and left the hotel on his way to Toluca in an SUV. But the traffic, as expected, was so bad that he had to turn back and head back to the hotel.
The chopper took a turn back to the hotel to pick him up.
From Toluca, Pacquiao was expected to land at LAX at around 6 p.m., with plenty of time to spare before he boards the 10 p.m. Philippine Airlines flight back home.
From Manila to New York, Los Angeles to Mexico and back, on planes, buses and choppers, the World Press Tour is finally over.
Soon it will be time to fight.