LAS VEGAS — Hundreds of screaming Filipino boxing fans tried unsuccessfully to shout down their Mexican rivals at the weigh-in for Saturday’s welterweight fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Chants of “Manny, Manny” were answered with even more boisterous calls of “Marquez, Marquez” from the dominant flag-waving Mexican supporters as a crowd of about 5,000 people squeezed into the MGM Grand Garden arena on Friday.
“I am happy to give honour to my country in boxing,” the 33-year-old Pacquiao told the crowd.
Pacquiao, 54-4-2 with 38 knockouts, weighed in at the division’s 147-pound limit while Marquez, 54-6-1 with 39 knockouts, came in at 143 pounds.
Pacquiao’s huge following in the Philippines was on display at the arena, with many of his supporters flying in from his home country and other parts of the United States.
With the 16,000-capacity arena sold out for Saturday’s fight, this is as close as many will get to the fighters in person. One eager Filipino couple, who flew in from Hawaii, started lining up in the wee hours of the morning 11.5 hours before the doors were scheduled to open.
The majority of the crowd was supporting Marquez, who walked to the scales first. He stood up there wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts, a thick gold chain around his neck and an orange paper bracelet. He still came in four pounds under the limit for the non-title fight.
“It is going to be a war,” Marquez told the crowd.
Pacquiao followed Marquez onto the scale, and then stepped off and posed like a body builder as his fans cheered and Marquez’s supporters booed.
Marquez’s fans successfully drowned out Pacquiao with a chorus of boos as he talked about trying to help the victims of a typhoon that devastated the southern Philippines this week, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands.
“This fight is dedicated to those fans,” Pacquiao said, adding that he would try to be better focused on Saturday.
When southpaw Pacquiao and Marquez enter the ring Saturday for their non-title bout, it will be the fourth time in eight years they have fought.
Pacquiao, who is eager to redeem himself after suffering a defeat in his most recent fight to Tim Bradley, is tired of Marquez blaming his failure to win in their three previous fights on biased judging.
Marquez claims he won all three fights — although two were scored in favour of Pacquiao and one ended in a draw.
“It is most important to show people who the best man is,” Marquez said Friday.
The boxers were joined on podium Friday by former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, promoter Bob Arum and their trainers, Freddie Roach for Pacquiao and Ignacio Beristain for Marquez.
Organizers announced Friday that more than $10 million worth of tickets have been sold for the fight, which is also being carried on both closed-circuit television at venues around Las Vegas and pay-per-view in private homes.
Pacquiao and Marquez joined an elite list of boxers who have met four times, including Sugar Ray Robinson-Gene Fullmer (1957-1961); Jersey Joe Walcott-Ezzard Charles (1949-1952) and Sandy Saddler-Willie Pep (1948-1951).
Pacquiao said earlier in the week that there won’t be a fifth fight, which would put them in the class of Gene Tunney-Harry Greb, who had five bouts between 1922-1925.
The undercard will feature one title fight, a 12-round IBF lightweight bout between Mercito Gesta of the Philippines and Mexican Miguel Vazquez.
Gesta, who has 26 wins and no losses, is fighting for his first championship belt.
Gesta’s father, Anecito, 49, is a former Muay Thai champion in the Philippines and also serves as a sparring partner for his son.
Former world featherweight champ Yuriorkis Gamboa is also on the undercard, fighting Filipino Michael Farenas in a junior lightweight bout.