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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

Sat, 14 Mar 2015

In many ways the one and only press conference officially telling the whole world that has waited five years for it to happen, that at long last undefeated and No.1 pound for pound fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr and eight division world champion and the Philippines biggest sports hero, Manny Pacuiao, will indeed happen at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 2.

The fact that there will be none of the usual jet-setting worldwide media tour stops to hype the fight clearly recognizes the reality that the fight needs no promotional gimmicks. It takes care of itself.

The crowd at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles which is the venue for such TV shows as ?American Idol? was significant in that two of the idols of boxing were on stage and only they will decide in a face-to-face encounter in the ring, who is indeed the champion of them all.

In the intensely competitive welterweight division, fans and media will make up their own minds as to who the ultimate winner is, without call-ins on the phone influencing the final outcome as in the ?American Idol.?

We joined popular ABS-CBN host TJ Manotoc in a two-hour marathon in the early hours of Thursday morning on ANC and Channel 2 in an effort to try and put what has come to be known as ?The Fight of the Century? into some sort of perspective while weighing-in on the possible factors that could influence the outcome as we tried desperately to distance ourselves from the influence of our affection and respect for Manny Pacxquiao who, to millions of Filipinos, is the greatest fighter of all-time.
It had to be a question of the mind and not the heart and Mayweather got the respect he richly deserves as the unquestioned pound for pound king from the reporters and panelists on the wake-up show of ABS-CBN ? Umaga Kay Ganda anchored by the often irrepressible Anthony Taberna who surely knows, along with his co-hosts, how to wake people up and keep them awake.

The press conference was marked by utmost cordiality on both sides. Leonard Ellerbe who hosted the Mayweather side of the event may have exaggerated his homage to Floyd but that was perfectly understandable for someone who has been part of the inner circle for years.

That he only recognized Floyd?s father/trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr but didn?t allow him to speak was a master-stroke to maintain the amiable, high-level conduct of the press conference because if a pre-conference interview with Mayweather Sr was any indication, he could have started something not-so-nice that would have undermined the theme of togetherness, although celebrated trainer Freddie Roach couldn?t help himself when he stepped up to the microphone and ended his brief message with ?we are going to whip your ass. Sorry Floyd.?

While Pacquiao and Mayweather were undoubtedly the center of attraction and subdued worship as the gods of the sport, to us the gentleman who stole the show was 83 year old Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who looked fresh, well-rested and mentally sharp, possibly relieved that the fight had ultimately been done without his having to go through tortured back-and-forth negotiations with the Mayweather camp, leaving it to his good friend Les Moonves, the president and CEO of CBS to use his remarkable persuasive powers and negotiating skills to achieve what was not thought possible over the past five years.
When Arum who was at the rostrum leaned over to shake the hand of Mayweather and told him ?you missed me Floyd, didn?t you? drawing a wide grin from Mayweather, it mirrored the tone of the proceedings.

But what truly must have touched Filipino hearts was Arum?s eloquent reference to the Philippines, the graciousness and care and compassion of its people both in times of war and in times of peace.

He recalled that while many countries including the US declined to accept Jewish refugees from the dreaded holocaust of World War II, the Philippines under President Manuel L. Quezon opened the country?s doors and embraced the influx of a traumatized people; how Filipino soldiers took to the mountains to fight against the Japanese side by side with the Americans and how even today thousands of Filipino nurses give substance to caring in hospitals across America.

Arum, who obviously has the greatest affection for Manny Pacquiao, his prized possession for well over a decade, extolled the virtues of Manny as the embodiment of all that is good and courageous about the Filipino.

Indeed, modern times can hardly present a viable challenge to the incredible rags to riches story of Manny Pacquiao who embodies many of the traits that signify our nation?s greatness.

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