By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Its only fair that we give credit where credit is due. That simply means we must have the honesty and decency to commend the giant Philippine network ABS-CBN for an excellent job in their promotion and coverage of the Manny Pacquiao-Oscar Larios Mano-A-Mano fight card despite some kinks that one would normally expect the first time such a huge event is staged.
To begin with they put out a whopping $4 million which was paid to MP Promotions to basically stage the fights, pay the fighters, provide airplane tickets, accommodation and meals, transport etc. It cost them that much to bring the fight here and while it was obviously an attempt to get the ratings and re-emerge as the leading network, you cannt fault them. But we believe pricing the tickets beyond the cost of tickets for the Pacquiao-Erik Morales fights in the US was a mistake no matter how much we adore Pacquiao. It had nothing to do with popularity or adulation. It was basically a matter of people being unable to afford it, especially the poorer folk who are the anchor of
In fairness to ABS-CBN they didn't let Pacquiao or the country look bad by staging a fight before a half-empty coliseum so they distributed tickets to studio audiences that crowd their popular TV shows, to employees of the network, to friends in the business as well as show business superstars and some politicians I guess. Pacquiao himself does this all the time.
It would have been a disaster to see Pacquiao fight in his country without a semblance of the millions who pay homage to him as a ring idol. Those who wish to put Pacquiao down or to reduce his purse in future megabuck fights could have pointed to the stadium and said Manny cant draw a crowd among his own people and is therefore not as big an attraction as they make him out to be. But, by giving away several thousand tickets ABS-CBN remedied an initial mistake at a heavy price but saved both Pacquiao and the Philippines some embarrassment.
Boxing writers who had initially complained bitterly about plans to seat them in the upper box and assailed and ridiculed the network claiming they would have to buy binoculars to catch the action ultimately sat smugly at ringside. Whether ABS-CBN had a change of heart because of the criticism we really cannot say categorically but we were told by the charming lady who is vice president for corporate affairs and public relations, Maloli Espinosa, right from the start, that legitimate journalists, sports columnists and photographers would be given their just recognition which meant good seats at ringside. It turned out that way.
Obviously ABS-CBN spared no expense in sending a crew headed by Dyan Castillejo to Mexico, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Tokyo to chronicle the events leading up to the fight and to give the Filipino people an idea of how Pacquiao and Larios were preparing for their Sunday showdown. Quite honestly, they did a better job promoting the fight than HBO normally does in the US primarily because they own a vast network of TV and radio stations and the infrastructure was in place to get the job done.
Together with MP Promotions they invested in bringing in Michael Buffer which, whether we agree with the expense or not, gave the main event the class it deserved taking into consideration that this was a showpiece occasion that was beamed worldwide. Renowned TV commentators Col. Bob Sheridan and Dave Bontempo who have the invaluable quality of building up and not knocking down the fighters or the sport were also a major plus.
We were pleased beyond words that the politicians didn't even remotely attempt to feed off the popularity or bask in the reflected glory of Manny except, regrettably, for the Mayor of Bacolod City who carried the championship belt and relegated long-time assistant Lito Mondejar to the sidelines. The other sour note were the new-found hangers on, leeches and miscellaneous individuals who climbed into the ring before and after the fight, trying desperately to be caught by the television cameras sporting jackets festiooned with product logos many of them even bigger than the Philiippine flag which, to us, was a desecration.
I suppose you can't have everything but we did have ABS-CBN prove that Filipinos are capable of staging a major sports event for an international audience with style and more than a touch of class. They did our country proud.