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Boxing's pre-show is better than the show

Three days before Manny Pacquiao faces Juan Manuel Marquez, the hyped-up activities make for a pretty good Las Vegas show. It's enough to make an ink-stained wretch come back to boxing.

November 09, 2011|Bill Dwyre
  • Manny Pacquiao, left, and Juan Manuel Marquez pose for photos during a news conference Wednesday in Las Vegas to promote their welterweight championship fight on Saturday.
Manny Pacquiao, left, and Juan Manuel Marquez pose for photos during a news… (John Gurzinski / AFP/Getty…)

From Las Vegas — It is Wednesday of fight week, Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez. And it is time to fess up.

My name is Bill, and I'm a boxing-oholic.

I've tried so hard. I should know better. Recently, I was very close to kicking this terrible condition.

The last two fights I covered involved Floyd Mayweather Jr., punching out the lights of Victor Ortiz shortly after Ortiz kissed him on the cheek while the referee was looking elsewhere. Boxing called that a knockout victory. On the streets, they'd call that felony assault.

Next came the Bernard Hopkins pretend fight, where he mostly danced until his opponent, Chad Dawson, tossed him off his shoulders in the second round, separated Hopkins' shoulder and was awarded the victory. There's more real boxing action than that during third-grade recess.

Later, some alphabet soup sanctioning body decided that result was suspect (Ya think?) and now we really won't know who won the Hopkins-Dawson fight until some guys in suits meet in a room somewhere. Mostly, I don't care.

Common sense says that enough is enough. If I can't control this urge, what's next? Columns on pro wrestling? Figure-eight stock car racing?

There were early signs. Years ago, I took my wife to a fight, and got her a good ringside seat. Soon, her white blouse was spattered with blood and spittle. I go to fights alone now.

This Pacquiao-Marquez matchup was to be my fair final test. I knew they will both box, rather than kiss, sucker punch or dance. Pacquiao probably will put him away somewhere in the middle of the fight, the crowd will get its money's worth and I will have a reason to ponder staying sweet on the science.

But with three days to go before they even lace 'em up, it's over. I'm back. This stuff is too good to miss. You can't make it up. Who cares about the fight? Just send me to the pre-fight. This is chocolate chip cookies to a fat guy. Paparazzi to Paris Hilton. Manna from heaven for a columnist.

Wednesday begins with a news conference before the official news conference. Only a highly select group of media is invited, 100 or so. They bring in Marquez, who says he is very confident. Soon, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, responds by saying, "You lose a lot of confidence the minute you get knocked on your ass."

Pacquiao, a Philippine congressman, tells reporters that there are perhaps 60 fellow congressmen here for the fight. "We can do a roll call," he says. Wednesday morning, Pacquiao ends his pre-news conference news conference by telling the highly select ink-stained wretches that, "The session is adjourned."

Those are merely the day's hors d'oeuvres.

At the post-news conference news conference, usually a luncheon attended by 100 reporters and 500 friends of friends, the late arrivals from the pre-news conference news conference are told by a man standing at the end of the buffet line that, "We are all done here." Translation: The friends of friends have eaten all the food.

Soon, on the elaborate stage, in front of a huge sign listing all the sponsors and flanked by two young females in bright red outfits that advertise a sponsoring beer and have room for little else, the mandatory MGM Grand speaker stands up to welcome all and express pride at hosting this event. Does pride not include a few more hot dogs?

Then the mandatory boxing commission guy speaks (he is proud too) and gives way to the mandatory HBO guy, who talks about all the pre-fight programming that HBO will be proud to carry. This includes six hours of pre-fight lead-ins Saturday, much of it from the lobby of the MGM Grand.

"We will bring all the boxing excitement and pageantry there," Mark Taffet says.

Can't wait for those ratings.

Taking note of the recent death of Joe Frazier, Taffet also mentions that Thursday night, HBO will rerun its recent documentary, "The Thrilla in Manila," about the final Ali-Frazier fight in 1975. Taffet, clearly proud, praises the film.

Following Taffet to the lectern is Bob Arum, master of ceremonies. As the boss of Top Rank Promotions, he is always the master of ceremonies at these things. Thank God.

Arum clears his voice, looks out at the audience, all 100 reporters and 500 friends of friends, and destroys Taffet and HBO. He prefaces his remarks by saying that he has been told he should learn to keep his mouth shut, and then he doesn't.

"I'm 80 years old," he says, as reason enough to ignore the advice.

Works for me.

"I found the documentary disgusting," Arum says. "It is filled with stuff from a lot of people who weren't even around then. I was. [Arum was Ali's lawyer and promoter]. It is chocked full of inaccuracies. It is an unfair attack on Muhammad Ali. You can watch it, but don't believe a word it says."

It is wonderful, a headline: Arum destroys business partner in public. Where else can you get this kind of theater outside the theater?

But there is more. Always more in boxing.

Sitting in the front row is somebody named Angel (Memo) Heredia, a.k.a. Hernandez. For 11 weeks, he has been the conditioning coach for Marquez, who looks bulked up. Heredia, for a time, was Marion Jones' strength coach, among others. In testimony before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and other government agencies, Heredia is credited with the identification of two dozen athletes to whom he provided performance-enhancing drugs.

Asked after the post-news conference news conference if he had any concern, Arum said, "I think I've got two good clean athletes."

Chocolate chip cookies, everywhere.

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