Billionaire Manny: I’m ready, I’m hungry
KUALA LUMPUR — Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao weighed in at a comfortable 146 pounds, well under the 147-pound (67-kilogram) limit on Saturday, and said he was “ready” to win back the welterweight belt against World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Lucas Matthysse of Argentina.
“I am ready. I am motivated, I am happy and I am hungry,” said the 39-year-old Pacquiao, the only man to have won world titles in eight weight divisions in a glittering 23-year career.
Amid the noise inside his packed VIP room, now Senator Pacquiao briefly reflected on his phenomenal career.
“Back then only true boxing fans watched my fights,” he said. “Now heads of states and government officials are here.”
Already, preparations were being made for President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to watch the fight at 11 a.m. on Sunday, local time, at Axiata Arena here.
The President left on Saturday for the two-day trip to Malaysia, the only Philippine President to fly overseas to watch a compatriot fight for a world boxing title.
Former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was also in the audience in the Thrilla in Manila bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at the jam-packed Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City in October 1975. Ali won by technical knockout.
Joining the President on the trip are his spokesperson Harry Roque, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, his special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Abul Khayr Alonto of the Mindanao Development Authority.
Roque said he did not know if Pacquiao had given free tickets for the match to the President who will meet with Mahathir on Monday before flying home.
Already in Kuala Lumpur and joining Pacquiao in the VIP room were Bureau of Corrections Director Ronald dela Rosa, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson and Representatives Toby Tiangco, Lito Atienza and Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo.
300 rooms blocked off
On the eve of what it called the Fight of Champions, Malacañang wished Pacquiao “all the best” and said it was praying for his win.
In a statement, Roque said “this bout will certainly unite Filipinos here and abroad as the Pambansang Kamao enters the ring to banner the Philippine flag.”
More A-list celebrities from back home were expected to plane in on Saturday as the Pacquiao camp reportedly blocked off 300 rooms at Le Meridien and Aloft hotels in Kuala Lumpur Sentral.
But the Filipino champ was quick to say that he remained focus on the fight despite the clatter of his other pursuits.
“We push it everyday. But we also allow ourselves to rest. It’s a series of push and rest to help the body recover,” he added.
In Kuala Lumpur, the heavily tattooed Matthysse played up his 1-inch height advantage by looking down on Pacquiao as the two came face-to-face for the last time before their 12-round showdown today.
“I am feeling good,” said “The Machine” Matthysse, as he was about to demolish a fruit platter for his post weigh-in meal after coming in the heavier man, just under the limit at 146.7 pounds.
Pacquiao will face Matthysse knowing that defeat could lower the curtain on one of the greatest careers in boxing history.
With fame had come a grand fortune, earnings of up to P24 billion ($500 million) in 2016, according to boxing pundits, and a net worth of P2.9-billion, according to Pacquiao’s 2017 tax returns.
No wonder he had ignored calls to retire from friends, family and even his Hall of Fame former trainer Freddie Roach when he lost the World Boxing Organization belt to Australian journeyman Jeff Horn a year ago.
Victory for Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) would also see him become a five-time welterweight world champion and extend his life in the ring beyond his 40th birthday in December. —REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND MARC ANTHONY REYES
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