Manny Pacquiao far from finished ahead of Macau fight, insists Bob Arum
Promoter Bob Arum insists Filipino is far from finished, but a third consecutive defeat in November's showpiece would surely spell end
With naysayers predicting the beginning of the end for Manny Pacquiao, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says the Filipino superstar is far from finished - and he will prove it in Macau in November.
Pacquiao, one of the biggest names in boxing during the past decade, returns to the ring for the first time since a stunning sixth-round knockout loss to Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez last December. It was his second straight defeat including his loss to American Timothy Bradley in a controversial decision last June.
Consecutive losses are hard for any fighter to swallow and already writers and observers are knocking down the Filipino like the right hook Marquez delivered in Las Vegas.
With his reputation on the line, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) will be trying to pick up the pieces when he fights American Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) at the 15,000-seat Venetian Cotai Arena.
Calls for 34-year-old Pacquiao to retire and be "proud of his achievements" have rung louder than the opening bell. Even his trainer, Freddie Roach, said Pacman must pack it in if he loses again.
"If you lose three in a row it's your time," Roach told ESPN.com "He's up there in age. I've got to keep a close eye on him. It's part of my job to protect him. I will do the right thing. I don't want him to be a stepping stone [for other fighters]."
But Arum is convinced "Pacman" will restore his reputation, beginning with victory over Rios in Macau.
"I really believe he will come back and be as good as he ever was and proof will be in the pudding [when he fights Rios],' Arum told the Sunday Morning Post.
"Let's see how he looks on November 24 and I am very optimistic that he's going to look great. You can't believe how excited everybody is. This is something new and challenging [fighting in Macau]."
Pacquiao told Arum he wanted to be the best again and he wanted no distractions this time.
"The problem is not in the preparation," said Arum. "It may well be that he has other interests that might take away his mental focus to some extent but as far as working hard, there's no athlete around that works harder.
"He told me he wants a full eight weeks of training. He wants to train outside the US because it wouldn't be a distraction. He will now train in his city, General Santos [in Mindanao province], where he has his own private gym.
"Freddie Roach will come with him to the Philippines. Most of his training was done at the Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles."
Los Angeles has been a distraction for the hugely popular Pacquiao, a hero to the Filipino community not only for his exploits in the ring but his fight against poverty and his work on The Fighters, a documentary on the work of one of the world's most renowned human anti-trafficking organisations.
"He's so popular that when he comes to Los Angeles the Philippines community has to get a glimpse of him and they crowd around him during his training and they mob him at the restaurants. That will not be the case in his own home setting because it is a relatively rural area and they will give him space," said Arum.
The 81-year-old Top Rank CEO said Pacquiao didn't get the credit he deserved for his past two fights, even though he lost both.
"Most people clearly felt Pacquiao beat Bradley [who won on a controversial split decision] and, as far as Marquez is concerned, Pacquiao was winning the fight until he got careless and ran into a punch and was knocked out," Arum said.
"I don't really believe that if Pacquiao would lose to Rios it would necessarily be the end of him. However, it is a very important fight for Pacquiao because for whatever reasons he has lost his last two fights, he needs very much a victory against a terrific fighter like Brandon Rios to get back at the top level." As a precursor to November's showpiece, Top Rank and the Venetian will stage another extravaganza next month, featuring two-time Olympic gold medallist Zou Shiming. Zou made his professional debut in April and will fight again on July 27 against Mexican Jesus Ortega (3-1, 2 KOs).
"You have to understand to be a pioneer and bring an event of this kind to Macau is something that gratifies us because it is bringing a fighter like Pacquiao and Rios to another part of the world which is beginning to really appreciate the sport of boxing," said Arum.
"Zou Shiming will also be on the card [in July] and the whole world will be watching because just about every country in the world will be getting a telecast of this event. So this is great for Macau for not only to stage this event but also to get the notoriety around the world of being the place where the event takes place," he said.
Pacquiao is venturing to Macau to avoid the hefty taxes he would normally pay if the fight was staged inside the US. Arum said US taxes would subtract up to 40 per cent of Pacquiao's purse.
Pacquiao earned US$26 million from his last fight and Arum thinks Pacman will receive a similar fee against Rios as organisers look into the possibility of earning revenue from Chinese pay-per-view audiences.
"We haven't determined whether there will be pay-per-view in China. We have a digital partner, who is familiar with China and they are undertaking a study to determine the feasibility of showing it on pay-per-view in China and if they believe it's feasible, that's what we will do. If they don't feel it's feasible, we will show it the normal way on national TV [CCTV]. We will probably make a decision at the beginning of July."
While staging the fight in Macau might be ambitious and somewhat risky, Arum said Pacquiao wouldn't be subjected to the massive tax incurred if he fought in the United States.
"To some extent it [Pacquiao's purse] might exceed what he would normally receive because there's a great curiosity factor as this fight is taking place in a very unusual place [Macau]."
Arum said the Pacquiao-Rios fight will be held in the early afternoon Hong Kong time to cater to American audiences, similar to Muhammad Ali's Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle in the 1970s.
Edward Tracy, president and CEO of Sands China Ltd, said the boxing showpieces would be "fantastic" for Macau's development into a world centre of tourism and leisure and for the diversification of the city's tourism economy.
"We definitely want to make a name for Macau and establish it as the region's number one destination for business and leisure travellers - and that includes making the city an entertainment hub for the region," said Tracy.
"It is not a matter of gaming; our goal is to enhance the overall resort experience for our visitors," he said. "Bob Arum has said in his previous interviews that he sees Macau becoming the next big global boxing capital. He's been in the business of promoting boxing's best for a long time, and if that's what he sees in the future for boxing and for Macau, I'd place a good bit of weight on the value of his insights."