By Ronnie Nathanielsz
DEMONSTRATING the humility that is characteristic of the man, pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao described heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali as “the greatest fighter ever and one of the greatest human beings.”
“He’s a great inspiration to all boxers including me,” said Pacquiao, who attended the gala dinner show for Ali at the MGM Grand Garden.
Although Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee spent some hours at the gala affair, they couldn’t wait for Ali, who arrived quite late, because they had to catch a plane to return to Los Angeles.
However, Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz told the BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard that before they left, Pacquiao purchased a photograph of Ali and signed it with a dedication to the celebrant, who honored on his 70th birthday last Jan. 17.
Pacquiao and Jinkee were seated at a table, which included former heavyweight champion George Foreman, the evening’s host for the ESPN TV coverage of the affair in Samuel L. Jackson, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and his wife Lovee, his stepson Todd duBeof and his wife, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his wife and Arum’s step daughter Dina.
“It was heartwarming to see so many people gravitating towards Manny to talk to him, take pictures and get an autograph. Manny has the same aura as Ali,” Koncz told the Manila Standard during a telephone conversation.
Koncz described the star-studded event as “a tremendous affair and a unique experience.”
“The outpouring of love for Ali was truly a great experience. I was very pleasantly surprised and felt so good that there was so much in common between Manny and Ali, who have a special something about them that people just come to them. These are not avid boxing fans, these are owners of casinos, big names in the medical field and so on. They just wanted to greet Manny and take pictures. I’m glad that Manny got a chance to experience that,” said Koncz.
He said Pacquiao plans to rest on Sunday, attend a Bible study gathering and would do some commercial shoots on Monday before flying to New York on Tuesday to begin promoting the title defense against Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 9.
Pacquiao is also scheduled for a “meet and greet” session with New York Knicks’ NBA sensation Jeremy Lim on Wednesday evening.