NEW YORK DREAM MATCH TOUR CHRONICLE (Part 1)
By Dr. Allan Recto
17 Oct 2008
Pacquiao (L) and De La Hoya pose during their NY “Dream Match” Tour October 1.
Laredo, Texas (Oct. 15) This is the first of two essays narrating the historic event when Team Pacquiao visited New York City 2 weeks ago, part of the “De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao” Tour and Press Conference, last October 1, 2008 at the Statue of Liberty. The mega-fight will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, shown Live on HBO PPV, with the first bell heard on Dec. 6th, for this much awaited, highly exciting bout billed - “THE DREAM MATCH.”
Team Pacquiao Arrival in New York City
After my flight from Texas arrived Newark International Airport in Terminal A, Sept. 30th, I proceeded to Terminal C at the arrival gate of Team Pacquiao. I knew I was on the right area of the modern airport when I spotted ABS-CBN video journalist Val Cuenca who informed me he had been patiently waiting for the Team since the afternoon. He was texted by a Team Pacquiao insider that they had taken Continental Airlines flight 90 which departed L.A. after lunch, about 12:30 pm. It was a direct flight from LAX to EWR, with a flying time of 5 hrs and 20 mins. Newark International Airport (EWR), the 2nd largest hub of Continental Airlines, is a busy airport about 16 miles from midtown Manhattan. The Philippine based media man had been in New York City that week to cover the visit and speech of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the United Nations. He extended his stay in NY so he could cover the historic New York Dream Match Tour & Press Conference at the Statue of Liberty the next day, October 1st.
At 8:45 pm, the first to appear out of the secured area was Canadian adviser Mike Koncz followed by American trainer Freddie Roach. Each one had a hand carried piece of luggage. The WBC Champ Manny Pacquiao, Filipino trainer Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez, Atty. Franklin “Jeng” Gacal and PR man Winchell Campos came into view next then select Team Pacquiao entourage to include Team supervisor Joe Ramos, travel assistant Joseph, videographer Levi Gutierrez and photographer Miguel Salazar. Manny and Team Pacquiao were pleasantly surprised to see us there waiting for their arrival. A few ground crew personnel had recognized the PacMan, some simply stated he was the boxing superstar from the Philippines who was to fight Oscar De La Hoya in December 6, 2008. After retrieving their luggages at the assigned baggage claim area, we all proceeded to New York City (Manhattan) in two separate vehicles – a special black SUV for the champ & few companions and the rest of us in a chauffeured minivan. We took the New Jersey turnpike then the Holland tunnel to reach our hotel in Manhattan New York within 30 minutes.
Le Parker Meridien - The chic Midtown West Hotel
At the cutting edge of comfort and style, we checked-in at Le Parker Meridien Hotel located on trendy West 57th Street New York, at the heart of it all, where we stayed for only one night. It was a stone's throw away from the glamorous shops of Fifth Avenue, the Broadway theaters, Carnegie Hall next door and adjacent to Central Park. Recent improvements to Le Parker Meridien Hotel have added to its prestige - a stunning three-storey atrium in an upgraded Lobby. Accommodation and dining facilities of excellent conditions of the hotel assure an unforgettable stay in the heart of Manhattan.
Manny Pacquiao was assigned a Diplomatic Suite by his promoter Top Rank with a magnificent view gazing at Central Park. The Diplomatic Suite is an impressive one-bedroom suite with two modernized bathrooms, a king-size bed and spacious living area with nice furnishings. It had a huge dining area with seating capacity up to six guests. The major attraction to this luxurious suite is the grand view of Central Park. After checking out his suite, Pacquiao enjoyed his dinner at Seppi’s Restaurant, a French bistro on the left side of the hotel, where he was served Steak Au Povre (Black Peppercorn Steak).
The long dining table consist of multiple guests - Jasmine Villegas, Lito Camu, Eric Pineda, Louie Masangkay, select Team Pacquiao members and others – some came all the way from New Jersey, California and the Philippines. (note: Jasmine Villegas is the teenage diva who sings the U.S. national anthem during HBO’s boxing matches including the 2 most recent fights of Pacquiao in Las Vegas.)
After dinner, an elderly white haired gentleman in his 70’s, a Magician named Bob Baxter, entertained our table with his tricks – using playing cards and solid linking rings. He later got a nice tip from the PacMan and he wished him well for his upcoming fight. At the stroke of midnight, a team member announced that it was the natal day of Filipino trainer Buboy Fernandez where everyone sang the famous “happy birthday” song.
It was indeed a memorable, fun-filled celebration. Outside, it was raining a little bit and the forecast for the next day was gloomy weather with some scattered rain showers. It never rained though during the press conference at the Statue of Liberty held in a tented venue. Later, we retired back to our respective hotel rooms. At 2:30 am, my roommate, MP’s photographer Mike Salazar, was awakened by a call from a Team Pacquiao member who stated if he could follow them to Times Square. Miguel asked, “Is Manny going to be there?” and was told, “No, he’s already asleep…he might go to the fitness center across the street tomorrow morning to workout under the watchful eyes of Freddie Roach and Buboy Fernandez.” The L.A. boys had their night out until early AM in and around the Times Square area of New York City.
To Battery Park on October 1st
The next day October 1, almost everyone overslept. We got called to Manny Pacquiao’s room for breakfast which served as the meeting room and there we saw Father Marlon Beof with his Dad in the suite. Despite his busy schedule, Fr. Marlon, Manny’s spiritual adviser in the U.S. during his fights, found time to meet with all of us. He declined our invitation to go with us to the Press Conference at the Statue of Liberty due to some previous commitments.
At around 10:15 am, we took the elevator to the main lobby where HBO, ESPN cameramen and other TV station crews had gathered together with boxing fans waiting for the PacMan to show up. At the instructions of Top Rank executives,
Pacquiao later boarded the black SUV and off they went to Battery Park. The rest of the Team boarded a black Van where the luggages were securely kept.
Battery Park is a public park located at the tip of the city’s borough of Manhattan, facing New York harbor. Along the waterfront, ferry boats depart to the Statue of Liberty. Battery Park was the center of Evacuation Day’s celebrations commemorating the departure of the last British troops in the United States after the American Revolutionary War. At the Battery Park, we were issued VIP/ Media credentials so we could board the chartered Ferry boat intended for both training camps, media and respective promoters. We went thru a tight Homeland security check and airport style screening prior to boarding the assigned ferry.
Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao boarding the Ferry together with entourage Joe Ramos, Winchell Campos, Mike Koncz, Atty. Jeng Gacal, Miguel Salazar, Levi Gutierrez & Joseph. (Photo by Dr. Allan Recto)
MP’s American trainer Freddie Roach boarding the ferry at Battery Park with Top Rank Executive Lee Samuels behind.(Photo by Dr. Allan Recto)
Oscar De La Hoya boarding the Ferry with Team member GBP Promoter Richard Schaefer, conditioning coach Robert Garcia, HBO Executive and people from media. (Photo by Dr. Allan Recto)
To the Statue of Liberty
The ferry boat we took had wide screen flat panel LCD monitors showing the HBO teaser for “The Dream Match” De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao at MGM Grand Garden Arena, Saturday, December 6 in Las Vegas, shown Live on Pay-per-View. “The best one I’ve seen in a long, long time,” was what Top Rank executive Lee Samuels told Mr. Bob Arum. “Wait till you see the HBO 24/7,” he added.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Oscar De La Hoya, his brother Joel De La Hoya, VP Raul Jaimes, Mexican trainer Nacho Beristein with Jaime Quintana, conditioning coach Robert Garcia later on arrived. After Team De La Hoya and Oscar boarded the ferry boat, they went straight to the right side of the ferry. A few minutes later, we all left for the Statue of Liberty. Over the years, the Statue of Liberty has grown to be a symbol of hope for freedom and democracy as well as international friendship.
The Statue of Liberty's torch lights the way showing everyone the path to Liberty. Even the Statue's official name represents her most important representation - "Liberty Enlightening the World". Standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, it welcomes everyone including tourists, visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans. Globally, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most familiar icons of the United States, often one of the first sightings for millions of immigrants after travelling from Europe.
It is well-known to all just like the two biggest names and faces of boxing – Oscar “Golden Boy” De La Hoya and Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao. “Pangarap ko talaga makarating at mahawakan ang Statue of Liberty mula pa nang bata ako,” Buboy told this writer. (Translation – “It had been my dream to see and touch the Statue of Liberty ever since I was a kid.”) He realized his wish on one of his most memorable birthdays – during the New York “Dream Match” Tour and Press Conference at the Statue of Liberty with Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions together with Team Pacquiao and Team De La Hoya – for the Dec. 6 showdown between PPV king and pound per pound best fighter in the world! (The rest is history…to be continued)
GBP Promoter Richard Schaefer, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Top Rank boss Bob Arum during the NY Dream Match Press Con at the Statue of Liberty. (Photo by Dr. Allan Recto)
The writer after a chat with Oscar De La Hoya inside the ferry last Oct 1st. (Photo by Joe Ramos)
Birthday celebrant & MP’s Filipino trainer Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez with best friend Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao with New York City skyline background during the NY Dream Match Tour &
Press Con onboard chartered ferry boat to the Statue of Liberty. (Photo by Dr. Allan Recto)
Buboy Fernandez with author during Statue of Liberty Press Con (Photo taken byJoe Ramos)
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