This November 24 all-star boxers Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines and American Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios will duke it out in the biggest bout of boxing China has ever held at The Venetian’s Cotai Arena in Macau.
The fight has been the subject of some serious hype, fully in evidence at the press conference in New York where the two warriors met this Tuesday. Today they head to Los Angeles to do more of the same.
“It's going to be a good fight. It's going to be a one of a kind fight,” Pacquiao said during a promotion tour in Beijing last week. “This is a good chance to promote boxing in China. Don't miss it.”
The bout is being promoted by American Top Rank CEO Bob Arum as the “Clash in Cotai.” Arum said, “We want to give the fans a really exciting fight," Arum said. "Brandon and Manny will be hitting each other from the opening bell to as long as they last.”
Pacquiao (aka “Pac Man”), who has won 10 world titles across eight divisions, will see his first fight outside the U.S. since 2006 when he beat former world champion Oscar Larios in a 12-round featherweight match in the Philippines. Rios has not been outside the U.S. since his 2008 bout in Mexico. Neither fighter has ever duked it out in China.
Pacquiao has specifically chosen Rios for the fight in a bid to prove he still has his mojo, after losing to Juan Manuel Marquez last December. “I chose Rios because he’s a good fighter, he throws a lot of punches and very aggressive. There’s going to be more action in the ring and I can prove that I can still fight and my career is not done yet,” Pacquiao said.
An added bonus for the home crowd: the undercard fight will feature 22-year-old Chinese boxer Zou Shiming who hails from Guizhou province. Shiming snagged Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 and is a symbol of China’s rebirth in the ring. This is his third trip to Cotai Arena, having debuted this April and winning “Fists of Gold”, before returning on July 27 to defeat Jesus Ortegas of Mexico.
Cotai Arena is at the center of China’s reemergence as a boxing power. The 15,000-seat venue is housed in a $2.4 billion, 40-story resort that is the largest single structure hotel building in Asia and the world’s largest casino in the wealthiest gambling mecca on the planet. Boxing has a long history in China, where it started among foreign sailors who fought locals in port cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou, as CNN points out.
The sport fell out of favor with the authorities when the Communists came to power and following the death of a boxer in Tianjin in 1953 Mao eventually had the sport banned. A 1979 meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Muhammad Ali turned the tides, and the ban on boxing was lifted in 1986. Now the sport is exploding in China.
And it shows. Attending the event won’t be cheap. Ticket prices for the nosebleed section start at HK$880 and go as high as HK$9,880.
“You can’t be considered a major sport unless you translate that sport to China and all the Asian markets,” Arum said. “That’s why the NBA is getting involved in China and so is Major League Baseball. And now so are we in boxing.”