They cheered Manny at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
No, not the guy with the dreadlocks and the Boston Red Sox legacy. Never that Manny. Not here.
No, this was Manny Pacquiao, and the day was about boxing, not baseball.
On Nov. 14, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the fast-moving career of the Filipino hero will make another stop with a battle against the dangerous welterweight Miguel Cotto. Thursday marked the first of a five-stop media tour -- New York, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego -- and Yankee Stadium made a nice backdrop.
The old Yankee Stadium, still standing across the way but soon to yield to the wrecking ball and become a park, was home to many great fights over the years. One speaker reminded the crowd that Joe Louis' fight versus Max Schmeling once drew 70,000 people there.
On Thursday, they let the public in for free and perhaps 800 showed up. One of the Yankees officials was prattling on about how Yankee Stadium was the home of this and that. From the crowd came the response: "And the home of the overpriced ticket."
It is boxing and this is New York. You expect chaos and get it.
Even though the Cotto-Pacquiao fight is two months away, the gathering served as a reminder of some good stuff ahead for boxing fans.
It starts Saturday night with Andre Ward, former Olympic gold medalist who is undefeated as a pro, in a tune-up fight at Pechanga in Temecula. On the same Showtime telecast, but coming from Denmark, will be a tuneup fight involving WBA super-middleweight champ Mikkel Kessler. Then, on Nov. 21 in Oakland, Ward and Kessler will meet.
More prominent than that will be consecutive-weekend super-fights, starting with Floyd Mayweather versus Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand on Sept. 19 and the much-anticipated Vitali Klitschko-Chris Arreola heavyweight battle at Staples Center on Sept. 26. Sometime before the end of the year, the once-postponed Kelly Pavlik-Paul Williams matchup, probably in Atlantic City, N.J., should be back on the calendar.
But the biggie is Cotto-Pacquiao.
Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Promotions handles both fighters and who served in his usual role of master of ceremonies for this media gathering, called Cotto-Pacquiao "the best fight of the year and maybe of the decade."
He will stand by that until his next promotion, which he will call, "the best fight of the year and maybe of the decade."
Cotto-Pacquiao and Mayweather-Marquez are conceptually joined at the hip.
Mayweather retired as boxing's pound-for-pound poster boy two years ago. Pacquiao took over that mythical crown by beating the legendary Oscar De La Hoya and the tough Brit, Ricky Hatton, while Mayweather went to nightclubs in Las Vegas and claimed he was retired for good. That, of course, was nonsense. The only retired boxers are those who can't get any more fights.
Now, the outcome of Mayweather-Marquez is being watched closely, especially by Pacquiao, who is careful about what he says but who acknowledged Thursday that "Pacquiao-Mayweather would be huge."
The waters are always muddied in boxing.
Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who was introduced by Arum as "the world's greatest trainer" and who may have lived up to that honor in Pacquiao's last few fights, said he'd rather see Marquez win and have Manny take a shot at him again. Pacquiao and Marquez fought twice, and Pacquiao came away with a draw and a split-decision win.
"I want one more shot," Roach said. "I want Manny to beat him so they will stop whining about the other fights and just shut up."
Mayweather is the favorite to beat Marquez -- "he's too big," Pacquiao said of Mayweather. But Roach said that even with a convincing victory by Mayweather, Pacquiao-Mayweather might be a hard fight to make.
"Mayweather's got a big ego and will want a lot of money," Roach said. "But Manny's not going to fight for less than Mayweather, and he's pretty stubborn. Plus, Arum and Al Haymon [Mayweather's promoter] hate each other."
In boxing, of course, hate is always trumped by money, so expect to start hearing more and more about Mayweather-Pacquiao. Then there's the issue of how long Pacquiao, 30, will keep fighting. He is committed to running for election to the Philippines Congress on May 11 and if he wins, says the careers can coexist.
"I can do both," Pacquiao said.
Roach heard that and said, "He can't do both."
Nearby, Cotto, who had listened during the formal news conference to all the praise for Pacquiao's convincing defeats of De La Hoya and Hatton and had responded by saying, "I'm not De La Hoya or Hatton," showed he knew what he was about to face.
"The punch he hit Hatton with," Cotto said, "would have taken down Mike Tyson. He won't find me that easy. My mind is my best weapon."
Some question how much Cotto has left after the beating he took at the (cemented?) hands of Antonio Margarito in July 2008. That fight ended with the previously unbeaten Cotto on one knee, badly beaten, and his corner throwing in the towel. Six months later Margarito was found with plaster of Paris in his hand wraps before Shane Mosley took him apart at Staples. And some fear that the beating Cotto suffered was even more severe than it looked.
When he learned of the plaster of Paris, Cotto was angry on several fronts, including that Margarito was also an Arum fighter. But Arum doesn't check hand wraps and Cotto eventually stayed on.
Now, the chatter over the permutations begins. Pacquiao-Mayweather? Pacquiao-Marquez? Mayweather-Cotto?
Pacquiao-Klitschko? (Just kidding.)
Whatever happens, it will be controversial, maybe nasty, probably a bit unethical and always greedy.
It's boxing. That's the fun.