Monday, October 13, 2008

Pacquiao,De la Hoya romanticize looming battle

NEW YORK — “Nag-day off kami para lang makita si Manny,” Justina Mataquel of the Bronx, exclaimed as she stood behind the red rope with her camera ready, waiting for Manny Pacquiao.
Mataquel was one of about 50 Filipinos who took the ferry ride from different parts of New York and New Jersey to see the WBC lightweight champion last October 1st. It was Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya’s first media blitz stop to promote their 12-round non-title December 6th fight to be held at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

Promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer certainly did their best to promote the fight capitalizing on America’s symbolic venues – the Statue of Liberty in New York, Sears Tower in Chicago, the Alamo in San Antonio and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Posing in front of the Statue of Liberty and placing the podium with the New York skyline behind them, the title-holder fighters both talked about the how this highly anticipated match up fulfills their American dreams. But there were no fighting words between the two then or during the other five-city stops, the last one was on October 7th in Los Angeles.

“This fight, and the fight that he has,” De La Hoya said in New York, “and the heart that he has is a big threat to me.”“It will be a big match,” Pacquiao said. “The love and the intensity will be doubled and fighting Oscar is a privilege.”

Although Pacquiao and De La Hoya seem to want to hug each other rather than fight, their fans, mostly Pacquiao’s, who showed up at the press conferences were the ones who loudly chanted some jabs. “Kahit na mas maliit sya,” said Warren Villanueva of Queens, New York “mas mabilis si Pacquiao. His speed and punches. He can win it.”The five-foot-6-inch tall Pacquiao who used to weigh 135 pounds, has to gain up to 147 pounds.

De La Hoya who stands at 5 foot 10 inches with titles in six divisions, including the WBO middleweight (160 lb) crown, is reportedly at his comfortable weight. But none of those figures and titles means much to Mataquel, a public school teacher. “If Manny wins this fight,” Mataquel said, “magbibigay ng respect din sa amin.”

Mataquel teaches in a Bronx middle school where her students are predominantly black and Latinos. “They know about the fight. Parang tulong na rin sa amin para tumaas ang tingin nila sa ating mga Pilipino.”

And Pacquiao is well aware that for some Filipinos, the American Dream revolves around certain community expectations as this one.“Para sa kanilang lahat ito,” Pacquiao said in New York. “Lalaban ako hanggang may buhay ako.”