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Superstars De La Hoya, Pacquiao Meet at NASA Space Center

Houston, Texas (October 3) ? Texas is a huge state. And Texans are known for their large, welcoming hearts. Texas , a Lone Star State? Not anymore, at least for today, when two huge stars lightened the skies of Houston and San Antonio, as Manny Pacquiao, the best boxer pound for pound in the world, and Olympic gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya, the six division and ten times champion of the world, showed up as part of the ?Dream Match? Tour to promote their next fight, December 6, at the MGM Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. This gigantic event is co-promoted by Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions.

The ?Dream Match? Tour kicked off last Wednesday, Oct. 1, with a press conference at the Statue of the Liberty in New York , and then on Thursday, Oct. 2, they were in Chicago on the 102nd floor of the Sears Tower Building . They were visiting landmarks in the United States of America . Team Pacquiao arrived at Newark International Airport , Sept. 30. We stayed at Le Parker Meridian Hotel near Central Park and Times Square . It was a dream come true for Pacquiao?s Filipino trainer Restituto ?Buboy? Fernandez whose dream was to visit the Statue of Liberty in his lifetime. It was a dream he fulfilled on his birthday last October 1st. Life in the USA is full of Dreams and this is indeed a Dream Tour.

Texas is a state of superlatives. Texas , by way of Houston , is a giant in the space industry, and is a major player in high technology. This Friday morning, both camps held a press conference the Texas Way, BIG, at NASA Space Center in Houston, inside the theater room with supposedly credentialed media only present. However, boxing fans and tourists alike showed up for this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a historic event. Pacquiao and De La Hoya, accompanied by their respective teams and promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, gave details of what they called to be the best fight ever.

At the press conference, Freddie Roach, Pacquiao?s main trainer, told the audience that they are ready for this fight, that they don?t care if De La Hoya is bigger, ?I know Pacquiao is faster and that is what is going to give us the victory - his speed, speed, speed,? he said. For his part, De La Hoya?s main trainer from Mexico City Nacho Beristein thru Jaime Quintana who interpreted his remarks categorically stated, ?Dec. 6 will be an important day because Oscar De La Hoya will stop the train out of the railroad track, which is Manny Pacquiao. Manny will be over on Dec. 6.?

Promoter Bob Arum stated that in history, Filipinos have been known for their fighting hearts and they never surrender, even as you always see them polite and soft-spoken, they have iron hearts he said. He introduced the current WBC Lightweight Champion of the World, which is Manny ?PacMan? Pacquiao.

The ?PacMan?, who looked calm and confident, with a big smile in his face, stepped up to the podium where he thanked all the promoters, sponsors, media and of course the boxing fans that showed up in Houston . He said that one of his dreams was to go to the moon. ?Now I feel closer to that dream,? he laughingly remarked as he looked at the big screens in the NASA Space Center Theatre. He assured everyone that it is going to be a great, great fight and that he doesn?t want to disappoint all the boxing fans whenever he fights. He further simply stated, ?I will do my best to win the fight? where he received loud cheers and applause from the audience of the packed theater room.

Golden Boy Promotion CEO Richard Schaefer was quick to react to Mr. Arum?s previous comments, ?But on the other hand, we have the Mexicans, who come from the Aztecs, great warriors too, so this is going to be a fight between two amazing fighters and warriors,? he said. He also predicted that Oscar De La Hoya will knockout Manny Pacquiao. De la Hoya said, ?Trainer predicting a KO and CEO predicting a KO?I better go to the gym to train now.? He also boldly predicted to knockout the ?PacMan? and promised to give his best to make this fight the greatest of all times. ?I know I?m getting old and that he is young and fast, but this for me is a great opportunity to demonstrate to myself that my time is not over, I feel great and I will train hard to beat Manny on December 6,? he said. ?I?m sure none of us ever thought we we?re going to fight each other, but this is really a dream come true for both of us, we know we?re the best and the fight as well, is going to be the best ever,? De La Hoya added. ?Freddie Roach has been saying that he knows how I fight because he trained me once, but remember, I know him too and know how he trains. I know what he is going to say at Manny?s corner. He?s going to say - ? Houston , we have a problem.? The crowd reacted with much laughter, excitement and applauses as De La Hoya finalized with that statement.

Final Notes: Apollo 13 moon flight crew in 1970 used this phrase to report a major technical problem back to their Houston base. The fighters posed with an astronaut between them. Bob Arum acknowledged the presence of Canadian Mike Koncz and Atty. Jeng Gacal. Richard Schaefer recognized the boxers Juan Diaz, Rocky Juarez and Jeff Lacy who were amongst the audience together with Diaz? manager Willie Savannah. During my interview with De La Hoya?s asst. trainer and conditioning coach Robert Garcia, he told me that although Freddie Roach trained Oscar and knows his style, he didn?t know that he was studying Roach?s style too. So he knows what he brings to the table. He also stated that both fighters are going to be hungry for the win come fight night and it could end early, especially if they engage each other closer from the start. When I asked if Oscar is still the same fighter he used to be, he replied-?This is the challenge he faces and he will prove it in December 6.? De La Hoya?s brother Joel informed me that Oscar would train really hard for this fight because he knows what Pacquiao can do on top of the ring. Pacquiao and select Team members flew by private plane heading south of the border to San Antonio, TX for the press con at The Alamo.

Personal note: An incident worth mentioning about characters of men. Immediately after the presscon, the bodyguard of De La Hoya pushed me aside as I was in the way asking for Oscar?s autograph for his book ?The American Son.? De La Hoya was kind enough to autograph my book anyway. I had dropped my cellphone unwittingly and thought I lost it forever. Buboy and I searched for my phone in the room but failed to find it then finally we gave up. I never thought I would recover it until I called it 30 minutes later when I was at the airport waiting for my SWA flight to San Antonio, TX. A De La Hoya boxing fan named Henry Cantu from Houston picked up and told me he got a call from my wife earlier. He explained to her that he found my cellphone at the NASA Space Center Theater Room. He gave her his name and contact information. He assured her he was going to mail it on Monday, Oct. 7. Thank goodness for honest people!

Top photo: Oscar De La Hoya (L) pose for cameras with Manny Pacquiao at NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum at podium stressing a point that Filipinos have fighting hearts. Oscar De La Hoya seated to the left w/ Golden Boy Promotion CEO Richard Schaefer standing beside him and Manny Pacquiao is seated to right as well.

Astronaut raises arms of Oscar De La Hoya (L) and Manny ?PacMan? Pacquiao.

Left to Right: Manny Pacquiao, Bob Arum, Freddie Roach, Mike Koncz & Atty. Franklin Gacal at the NASA Space Center Theater Room during Houston presscon.

Manny Pacquiao at the podium with Team De La Hoya listening, from left to right, trainer Nacho Beristein, ODLH brother Joel De La Hoya, CEO Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya.

Conditioning coach/ Asst. Trainer Robert Garcia being interviewed by author at NASA Space Center Theater Room.

Photos: Reiver Rodriguez.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Dr. Allan Recto.

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