by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – They were there. From ABS-CBN to GMA-7 and RMN, even voices from the past like the legendary sports analyst Hermie Rivera. They were fishing for a story at the Santa Monica Pier. The AJ caught the big ones, from Freddie Roach to Bob Arum.
Manny Pacquiao strode into Mariasol Restaurant and headed straight to the deck that looks out to the Pacific Ocean. He was late. But no one cared, including boxing promoter Bob Arum, who had arrived earlier and was already giving one-on-one interviews to journalists. Even Pacquiao’s opponent, David Diaz, was already giving an interview to Filipino television journalist Chino Trinidad of GMA 7.
Pacquiao never arrives on time, even for a workout at his favorite gym in Hollywood. Maybe he thinks that’s fashionable, but Bob Arum, Paquiao’s promoter, doesn’t seem to mind. He is genuinely like a doting father to Pacquiao, hugging him, and complimenting him profusely after winning a fight.
On one of the tables, a forlorn-looking David Diaz was talking to Filipino television journalist Chino Trinidad. Someone informed me that Chino is the son of vaunted sportswriter Recah Trinidad and I wondered if Recah himself would cover the Pacquiao-Diaz fight this Saturday. He covered the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch last Spring. I got to extract from him an analysis, telling me that he held Barrera in high regard.
I asked my colleague Ricky Morales, ABS-CBN and KSCI 18 cameraman, why Pacquio’s camp needed to call a second press conference (A third is scheduled for Wednesday at Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas). Ricky told me that Mexicans have not totally embraced Diaz because he was born and raised in the United States. Because of this, Mexican boxing fans have not accorded Diaz the same adoration and respect they gave other Mexican pugilists that had fought Pacquiao in the past. Mexican-Americans are mighty proud of their Mexican fighters, and Diaz, who speaks Spanish well, and English even better, is not considered Mexican enough.
Hermie Rivera, who used to be a broadcast journalist and sports analyst, joined my group, which included Joseph Pimentel and Andy Tecson. Now in his seventies, Hermie told us that Paquiao has the edge in all departments, calling the General Santos City boxer a 4-1 favorite. “Hindi madedehado si Pacquiao diyan,” he said. Hermie is semi-retired and has five grandchildren. In his prime, Hermie was was one of the stalwarts of RMN, one of the television networks in Manila. He had worked with Joe Cantada, Ed Tipton, Milt Alingod, and Ronnie Nathanielz, the Ceylonese journalist who was accorded Philippine citizenship by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hermie told us that he would be interviewed by GMA reporter Lei Alviz.
Pacquiao is upbeat about his coming bout with Diaz, although his mien, almost always composed, did not show it. He was given the opportunity to speak first and I noticed his English has improved considerably. I had watched him address the mainstream sports press on several occasions, and had noted that he had gained the ability not only to speak English better, but he had also acquired an endearing savoir faire when fielding the questions of American boxing journalists.
“Here we go again,” he told dozens of photographers and reporters. “I am looking forward to a good fight between me and David Diaz. I will do my best to make people happy,” he said. “Don’t miss it. Please watch the fight in Las Vegas or watch it on Pay-Per-View.”
“My job is to make big fights available even though they (Pacquiao and Diaz) are both my fighters,” Arum declared. “I have to make them available.”
I talked to Ben Delgado, who, I was told, is always with Pacquiao in every important bout. Mang Ben, who is from Davao, told me that Pacquiao is a creature of habit and a very religious man. “He prays always and go[sic] to Mass on Sundays,” Mang Ben said. Mang Ben had been with Pacquiao since 2001. A former boxer himself, he fought professionally from 1959 until 1963. After his boxing stint, be became a trainer and had trained three Filipino boxers who all became champions — Rolando Pascua, WBC junior flyweight champion in 1990; Bernie Torres, IBF junior bantamweight champion in the Philippines; and Manny Pacqauio, who defeated Lihlo Lebwaba in the junior featherweight division in 2001.
Would Pacquiao win this match? As a creature of habit, there is no doubt that he will.