ARLINGTON—When world champion Manny Pacquiao enters Cowboys Stadium on November 13, it might be the first time in a long time where he’s not the favorite.
Well, the fan favorite, that is.
A boisterous crowd of Antonio Margarito supporters routinely halted on Friday’s news conference at the stadium with chants of “Mexico, Mexico” or “ Si se puede.” Translation: “Yes, we can.”
“I don’t care, as long as the fans are happy, then I’m happy,” Pacquiao said.
Bookmakers have Pacquiao at roughly a 5-1 favorite.
When Pacquiao (51-3-2) fought Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, he was the clear crowd favorite of the 51,000 in attendance.
Officials said on Friday that 70,000 fans could pack Cowboys Stadium for this World Boxing Council world super-welterweight championship.
Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) hails from Tijuana, Mexico, and was a hit when the left the stage and began signing autographs for the several hundred fans in attendance.
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddy Roach, quipped that “the Tornado” would be downgraded to a tropical storm by Pacquiao.
“You won’t see a small rain but a tornado from me,” Margarito replied. “This one is for Mexico.”
However, there were plenty of Pacquiao fans who supported the Filipino congressman and shouted “cheater” at Margarito, who had his license revoked after plaster was found on his hand wraps before he entered the ring for a January 2009 bout against Shane Mosley.
Stamp of approval
This fight only happened after Texas boxing officials were willing to license Antonio Margarito.
California and Nevada refused to license Margarito but William Kuntz, executive director for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, said Margarito met the requirements for a license.
Kuntz said that after Margarito’s California hearing the Association of Boxing Commissioners sent a letter saying states were free to license Margarito if he applied.
“Everybody’s got their opinion about it,” Kuntz said. “As you can hear today, about half the people are happy for Margarito and the other people were cheering for Pacquiao.
“With the differences of opinions, that’s just something you live with.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the fight has a special impact on Texas.
“First of all, I know the effort, work and the depth of the look-see at the facts that the commission exercised to license Margarito. We have a state that has a huge interest in boxing,” Jones said. “What this is about and what that commission has done is basically made it possible for us to have a great event here in Texas that really serves the citizens of Texas.”
Until Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight, the talk won’t subside.
Mayweather, however, took the rhetoric to a new level, appearing this week in an online video featuring several Asian racial stereotypes directed at Pacquiao.
“I just heard about that, but I didn’t see the video, but that’s uneducated, uneducated,” Pacquiao said.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wasn’t at Friday’s news conference because his son John remains missing in the mountains near Seattle.
John Arum, 49, was attempting to climb the 100 tallest peaks in Washington and often went on wilderness adventures by himself.
He hasn’t returned from a solo trip last weekend. His backpacks were found in the mountains.
According to their contracts, neither boxer can be more than 150 lb at the weigh-in on the day before the fight. That is a concession to Pacquiao, 31, who began fighting professionally at 108 lb and will be trying for a title in his eighth weight class.
Margarito, 32, has been fighting at 147 lb and up since 1996. Pacquiao fought at 110 lb that year. At five-feet-11, Margarito, a three-time champion at 147 lb, towers over Pacquiao. He is listed at 5’6 but looked smaller than many of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on hand to escort the fighters to the news conference dais.
Size obviously doesn’t matter in Las Vegas where bookmakers like Pacquiao’s speed and skills. Tickets for the fight, which is projected to draw a crowd of 70,000, have been scaled from $50 to $700.
Tobias Xavier Lopez, Forthworth Star Telegram