SACRAMENTO, California—For warmth in the autumn chill, the fire crackled at Serafin Letim’s farm in the rural Elk Grove area of Sacramento on Halloween night.
It will crackle again Saturday evening (Sunday morning in the Philippines) when the farm’s gates swing open to welcome the usual suspects who chipped in for a pay-per-view subscription to the third encounter between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
The food’s courtesy of the PPV klatch wives. Their husbands will spring for the beer and wine.
My wife and I will break with tradition this year. We won’t be catching the fight at my kumpadre Willie Hernandez’s Natomas home, but will drive, hopefully not through the Tule fog, to Serafin’s piece of bucolic California to hook up with friends we have not seen in ages.
The fighting congressman’s twice-a-year megabouts under the bright lights of Glitter Gulch are magnets that attract Filipino clans and relations to band together.
No doubt the bonding at Serafin’s place will be repeated in countless adobo households from coast to coast on Saturday night and cement Pacquiao’s solid support from America’s Filipino enclaves.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, and cable giant HBO are moving heaven and earth to entice boxing’s diehard and borderline fans in two of the sport’s biggest buying blocs—the Mexican and Fil-American communities, as well as ring followers from the rest of America’s sports melting pot—to invest $54.95 a pop for the high-profile bout telecast from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
The target is to eclipse revenues of the fighting congressman’s two previous PPV starrers and the welterweight flop that featured Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz.
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His ring arch nemesis floated like a butterfly. He snarled like a bulldog.
He was called Smokin’ Joe Frazier because his trainers swore that when he sent an opponent crushing to the floor, smoke poured through his gloves.
He was a ferocious tiger in the ring, a gentle lamb off it.
I could relate to the brat pack of Manila’s close-knit family of scribes in the 1970s because I was one of them. The pack, now older and wiser, would sure agree with me that the death of Frazier brings back a rush of memories about our younger days as sportswriters.
Many of today’s readers are too young to remember, but there was a time when the three heavyweight championship fights between Frazier and Muhammad Ali were the biggest sports spectacles on Earth.
These bouts are etched in gazillion minds as the greatest trilogy in ring history.
The last and most brutal—the monumental Thrilla in Manila in 1975—would forever transform the pack, whose members were among the most gregarious and easy-going individuals ever to walk the planet.
Touted by their editors as a gold mine for experience, the “Thrilla” attracted pack members to volunteer or get enlisted as backup reporters, color writers, and desk and/or rewrite persons for the most important sports event ever to be staged in our shores.
While learning at the feet of the craft’s masters then, the pack took some licks in the art of deadline writing and editing, but Ali-Frazier 3 enriched their careers as they gradually earned their spurs as practitioners of literature in its most frenetic form—sportswriting.
Many members of the pack from the Ali-Frazier years are now news executives, sports editors and columnists of your favorite daily newspapers.