I KNOW Manny Pacquiao had already landed in Macau the previous day, along with more than 300 family, friends, fans, an entourage that filled two planes. His opponent, Chris Algieri had reached the Venetian on Saturday. But there was still a curious magic to the ‘grand arrivals’ staged at the Venetian hotel on Tuesday (November 18). Rolling in from the airport, I was unprepared for the flashing lights, pounding music and swarming photographers. Zou Shiming, China’s Olympic hero, strolled in. A lady dressed as a, presumably Venetian, gondolier handed him a bunch of flowers. He nodded, smiled, posed for pictures as if this was how he entered every hotel. Who knows, maybe it is.
Algieri may be Pacquiao’s foe for the big fight on Saturday but he received a warm welcome too. In sunglasses and leather jacket he marched down the red carpet rather like the Terminator attending a movie premiere. “This is a dream come true,” he announced to the assembled throng. The New Yorker does seem to be soaking in all the attention and his iron-clad self-confidence suggests he feels he belongs at this level.
But the real star could only be Manny Pacquiao. The photographers sprang to the door en mass. As one the body of snappers scuttled back. Momentarily through the forest of heads and cameras you could a catch a glimpse of the great man. Functionaries buzzed round to force back the wave of snappers and there revealed was Pacquiao . He smiled faintly at the onlookers. The fans, held back by a small fence, stretched glimmering cameraphones high above their heads