Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | November 29, 2006

Vegas, baby

I am already in Las Vegas so the things I write about my short stay in Hollywood will be pulled from memories.
No. There is no need to go over again the fact that I measured my nights there with beer. I’ve written about that already.
I’ll be writing about the guy I’m here to cover.

Y’all know him.

I’m talking about Manny Pacquiao.
Like one of the posts I managed to sneak into this site while hammering out stories that will hopefully beat the living shit out of my deadline (I really am confused when it comes to transposing hours. The best solution—so kindergarten when you really think about it—was to leave the clock setting on my cellphone in Philippine time. Not Filipino time.) , Erik Morales is toast.
I do not say this tainted by the bias of a Filipino who would want nothing more than the brief  moment of unity every Pacquiao victory inspires in our geographically, culturally, philosophically, politically and mentally divided country. Or of one who was part of a corporation that wagered a $150 dollar bet that the Pacman would knock “El Terrible” out cold.

I say this as someone lucky enough to be among those allowed entrance to a newly-constructed wing of the Wild Card gym in Hollywood where the Pacman holds private workouts.
The afternoon before we left, after already having wowed foreign journalists during an open session, Pacquiao was at it again, battering bags, punishing sparring partners and training like he was set to fight Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. At the same time. He wasn’t relaxing. Although he was relaxed.

A lot of times, he would blurt out comic one-liners to the delight of the few people watching him.
Other times, his comments would be in the native dialect that only his handlers and I could understand—me having grown up in the south. And it is a thrill to be able to laught at comments that leave others wearing a DUDE WHAT THE HELL DID HE JUST SAY look on their faces.

Once, while being hauled away from a punching bag that he seemed bent on deflating with his bare knuckles by coach Freddie Roach, Pacquiao headed for the double end bag, which required less power and more timing. The ring idol went on to lightly punch the double end alternately with right and left hands then, out of sheer boredom, quipped sarcastically: “My gosh, I think I’m starting to hurt my opponent.”

He did hurt his sparmates, though. Dave Rodela, who fights two divisions higher, was unleashing a barrage of punches that Pacquiao all absorbed gamely, looking for that one opening where he could sneak in a combination of his own. When he got that opening, he tagged Rodela with a left and a right that left the Mexican dazed.

“He hits like a middleweight,” Rodela said.

It sure looked like he did. Pacquiao’s sparring partners reportedly have been dangled lucrative cash incentives in greenbacks if they can floor the Filipino so you understand the intensity by which these hired boxers try to nail Pacquiao.

None of them succeeded.

The only incentive Morales is getting, aside from the paycheck he will receive to put a period in this trilogy which will be remembered for the amount of action it has provided fight fans, is the one for making weight. Wherein, he will get to keep the $500,000-a-pound fine that will be levied should he send the needle past the 130-pound mark by even a hairline.

You think El Terrible is going to be able to do what bigger opponents couldn’t?

Maybe. I can’t be so sure. As far as the sport goes, my eye is as untrained as a mangy, flea-infested street dog. I haven’t seen Erik Morales train yet. The press center here at the Wynn Hotel says he will hold an open training session within the next few days. Maybe I can tell by then.

In the meantime, I am in my hotel room, looking at a wall-wide glass window that captures the tailend of the Vegas strip. The lights are starting to show and it means that a new day is about to start in the Philippines. Vegas, too, is coming to life.

As if it ever dies.

In Hollywood, strangely, the lights turn out slowly by the time 8 p.m. comes around, which struck me as a surprise, really. I always thought that a major city in the US would always be alive way until dawn. But no. Even the fastfood stores here go on semi-sleep (they are open 24 hours but the later hours are reserved for drive thru customers only).

That’s why we make sure we purchase our beer early. And transmit our stories earlier.

The only thing common about Vegas and Hollywood is the fact that there isn’t a day when you don’t hear anybody talking in Filipino—or in a native Filipino dialect.

I swear, walking through a mall in Vegas is akin to walking inside Greenbelt, where the English-speaking denizens of the Philippines love to hang out. Except that in Vegas malls, there are a lot of Mexican conversations.

I know. I’m blabbering.
Then again, you would, too, if you were inside a posh Wynn hotel room staring out at Las Vegas, baby, with the biggest coverage thus far in your pathetic journalism career just days away.


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