MACAU: The Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios fight set for today (Saturday) is being pushed as the single biggest sports event to be held in this autonomous territory of China.
From the way the event is being marketed, with giant well-lit billboards visible practically everywhere, the mega “comeback” fight of the pride of the Philippines is expected to be a gamble that pays off.
Previously, big money fights were almost always held in Las Vegas, Nevada. But Macau has been billing itself as the better alternative to the US “sin city,” and has reportedly overtaken Vegas as the world’s top gaming center.
While Filipinos regularly visit this territory in large numbers, a Filipino hotel worker told
The Manila Times that there has been a “noticeable” increase in the number of Pacman supporters arriving this week.
By comparison, this writer only saw one Mexican (wearing a t-shirt of the colors of his country’s flag) dining at the Sheraton.
Pacquiao himself is billeted at the nearby The Venetian, one of the biggest resort-hotels in Macau. A faux boxing ring has been built near the lobby of the Venetian.
The most common question fellow Filipinos ask each other is, “nandito ka para panoorin si Pacquiao?” (Are you here to watch Pacquiao?)
The most inexpensive seat goes for about $120 (US), with seats near and at ringside being in the thousands.
As a gambling mecca, the Filipino is the heavy betting favorite to take the measure of the hard-hitting Mexican.
The proximity of Macau to Manila—a mere two hours away by plane—and the visible number of Filipinos living and working here makes the Pambansang Kamao practically a hometown favorite.
Pacquiao seems to be taking this fight very seriously. Sightings of the pugilists and his trainer Freddie Roach are few and far between, unlike in his previous fights when he would be seen walking around and even placing a few bets in the casino where he would be booked.
Coming out of back-to-back losses, Pacquiao is expected to go all out to demolish Rios. But concerns have been raised that the recent tragedy caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in central Visayas may cause Pacquiao to lose his focus.
On the other hand, the fighting congressman from GenSan is expected to dedicate this fight to his countrymen, especially the victims of the killer storm.
Whatever the results of the megafight, Macau is already considered a big winner, having successfully hosted one of the biggest sporting events of 2013.