By Michael Marley
If there has been a familiar face on the Las Vegas boxing scene for the past 33 years, it's been that of Bob Halloran.
Halloran, who helped make a young fighter named Cassius Clay a household name when they both worked in Miami (Halloran as local CBS sportscaster), toiled in the entertainment and sports realm for Caesars World for a decade. Then the Robert Redford lookalike switched over to work for casino mogul Steve Wynn for a dozen years at The Mirage.
"Now I've been with Richard Sturm at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay (MGM Resoirts International) for many years. All in all, I think I've been part of over 250 world championship bouts and shows with all the big promoters."
Now Halloran is all pumped up about the MGM Grand hosting the May 7 Sugar Shane Mosley-Manny Pacquiao show, which he said was a legitimate sellout in one full hour.
"I like Manny very much. I got to know him on some of the media tours, on the plane when he has some private time. If there is a bad side to Manny, I don't know it. He's very humble, very caring to the people around him. And nobody acts as his mouthpiece, he speaks for himself.
"He's got Michael (Koncz), who is rarely quoted, rarely does interviews and works very hard. And Manny's got the biggest entourage, bigger than Ali's, so much so that he has to rent out commercial aircraft to go to Dallas for a fight. But the guys around Manny, they don't speak for him, he speaks for himself. I think that's another reason the public likes him so much."
Halloran had a recent personal experience which underlined for him how Pacquaio's popularity has gone way beyond the boxer's Filipino and Filipino-American core.
"I went to a new dentist in Palm Springs, where I live, and the guy was a young, Armenian fellow said he said on my chart that I work in Vegas. We started talking and he said, 'I would give anything to be able to see Manny Pacquiao fight.'
"There's a real fascination with Manny now. He's become the kind of popular guy that Oscar De La Hoya was. If I mention six or seven fighters, I would be lucky to find that the average guy on the street knows any of them. The same average guy on the street, well all those guys know about Pacquiao," Halloran said.
"Pacquiao has taken the mantle of a Joe Louis, of Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes or Sugar Ray Leonard, as the one fighter that the general public really knows."
As befits a lifelong betting man, one of Halloran's public chores when hosting a big event boxing card is to pass along the latest line on who the sports book favors.
Pacquiao remains a prohibitive favorite, minus $8.50 two days ago, Halloran said. He said if you were betting Mosley to win, the line was a plus $5.50.
"I guess they're betting on Manny because he was at minus $7.00 and zoomed up to minus $8.50," Halloran said.
In his three decades on The Strip, Halloran has spent a lot of time around Sugar Shane. But he is not sure what the future Hall Of Famer has left in his tank at age 39.
"Go figure Shane," Halloran said. "He beat Oscar twice when Oscar was in his prime. But then he goes and loses to guys you would think he would not lose to (Vernon Forrest, Winky Wright). So Shane is very difficult to figure out.
"But I think Shane will do what has so many times before and that is get up for the big name opponent. There's no bigger name opponent for Shane now than Manny."
Halloran is an optimistic sort and he still thinks Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Pacquiao can be put together for the autumn.
And, the man who informed Clay on camera that he'd just been drafted and might be Vietnam bound, said, boxing needs the excitement.
"You ask me if boxing needs that fight and I say, boxing doesn't need that one fight so much. What it really needs is a trilogy, three fights, with Floyd against Manny, the two biggest superstars in the game.
"That's what boxing needs. It needs that bigtime."