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VIP RIDE. Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao talks with reporters on the train from New York to Washington. The Filipino champ is on a national media tour in the US to promote his fight against “Sugar” Shane Mosley on May 7 in Las Vegas. CHRIS FARINA-TOP RANK


Pacquiao and his traveling circus

Wife wears diamond the size of Manhattan

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:57:00 02/18/2011

Filed Under: Pacquiao, Boxing, Celebrities, Obama Articles, Politics

WASHINGTON?Late Monday afternoon, Manny Pacquiao and company, lots and lots of company, boarded Acela Express No. 2165 in the belly of Pennsylvania Station.

Pacquiao entered his private car (cost: $10,000) flanked by two documentary film crews, promoters, publicists, advisers, his chief of staff and his wife, Jinkee.

Amid this scene, one day before he met with President Barack Obama, Pacquiao removed his sneakers, reclined and fell asleep for 45 minutes of scheduled relaxation.

In recent days, he had gone from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to New York to promote his May welterweight fight against Shane Mosley, and now, as the train rumbled south, the part of the trip he anticipated most beckoned.

Next came Mr. Pacquiao Goes to Washington, the highlight of another marathon promotion for perhaps boxing?s most talented fighter and certainly its only legislator.

Such tours are familiar to boxers of Pacquiao?s profile, but they remain exhaustive and repetitive nonetheless. Thus the last leg of this promotion served as a welcome diversion from the norm, as Pacquiao toured the Capitol on Tuesday morning and met Obama that afternoon.

Along the way, Pacquiao answered a few hundred questions, on topics that ranged from his boxing goals (?Hmmm. What else??) to the fighters he most admires (Long pause. ?Myself.?) to the inspiration for the mushrooming poof of black hair sprouting from his head (?Bruce Lee is my idol.?)

For 24 hours, Pacquiao provided a look at his complex life, with several of his various sides?boxer, politician, husband, promoter?on display. Along with his omnipresent traveling boxing circus, of course.

It started, as most tour days start for Pacquiao, with a news conference. As Top Rank?s Bob Arum waited for his fighter, he detailed the celebrities he saw at the Super Bowl in Jerry Jones?s luxury box.

Arum even ran into Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only other fighter with a legitimate claim to boxing?s throne. (They did not resume negotiations.)

Pacquiao entered a banquet hall at Chelsea Piers shortly before 11 a.m. His camp and Mosley?s traded compliments on Valentine?s Day in very non-boxing-like fashion.

Mosley?s trainer, Naazim Richardson, told those assembled, ?If you don?t like Manny Pacquiao, he?s done something to you personally.?

Then they cut a cake, which Pacquiao wisely had presented earlier to his wife.

Afterward, fans waved the flags of Pacquiao?s native Philippines, and one held a sign that read ?We ?love? our congressman.?

Mosley sat at a table, claiming indifference to the fact that two of Pacquiao?s last three opponents landed in the hospital, the last, Antonio Margarito, with a broken bone in his face.

New girlfriend

In a side room, Freddie Roach, Pacquiao?s trainer, seemed unimpressed. More than once, he said Pacquiao would not underestimate an opponent.

The implication, of course, was that Mosley, near the end of his career, could be underestimated.

Roach skipped the trip to Washington, having already witnessed the effect of politics on Pacquiao, 32. Roach views most of Pacquiao?s so-called distractions?the singing, the acting, the endorsements, the entourage?as overstated.

But politics, the subject Roach likes to describe as Pacquiao?s new girlfriend, has a stronger, more real pull.

?A president one day?

On their last training trip to the Philippines, Roach visited Pacquiao at the House of Representatives, where he had a motion passed that Roach said made him a citizen.

Roach says he thinks Pacquiao will fight twice a year for the next two years at least, but on that day, watching Pacquiao in a fancy suit, how serious he was, Roach saw the future.

?One day, he?ll be president,? Roach said.

The would-be president left his Monday news conference through a kitchen, out the back door, where hundreds of fans had gathered.

While he conducted a series of individual interviews with news organizations, his handlers headed to Penn Station. One question?would he arrive with luggage??made them laugh.

The Pacquiao they know travels often. And he does not travel light.

Superstar, politician

Once in the car, while Pacquiao slept, his entourage fetched hot dogs, chicken with rice, and cupcakes. His chief of staff, Jing Gacal, tried to sort through all the committees his fellow politicians want Pacquiao to serve on. The list included national defense, rules, transportation, basic education and agriculture.

In session, Gacal said, Pacquiao slides easily from boxing superstar to public servant. He pushed for a hospital in his Sarangani province, even once told President Benigno Aquino III that financing would help him concentrate on training. He helped amend a bill on human trafficking.

But separating politics from boxing remains difficult, if not impossible.

?To be honest, Manny gets special treatment from his colleagues,? Gacal said. ?They just love him. Most of them are fans. Some of them are still starstruck.?

His adviser, Michael Koncz, sat nearby. Koncz said Pacquiao?s previous hints at retirement were to ?appease his mother? and added that Pacquiao would fight for the foreseeable future ?because he?s having too much fun.?

As big as Manhattan

That was evident when Pacquiao woke up and went right back into interview mode, surrounded as always by reporters. He was continually asked about distractions, and he kept dismissing their validity.

One reporter, noting all the things Pacquiao is involved with, asked how much he slept. ?Nine hours,? he replied. ?Sometimes eight.?

Superstars apparently need sleep, and when the train ride ended, Pacquiao strode through the opulence of Union Station, surrounded by television cameras, boom mikes, the usual. His wife wore a diamond ring roughly the size of Manhattan.

Fans shouted, asked for autographs, posed for photographs. Pacquiao sang a few bars of ?Say You, Say Me.?

A man approached and asked if Pacquiao was a movie star. Told he was a boxer, he said, ?Oh, yeah, the little one with the hair!? A few minutes later, he returned and said, ?That?s the one Mayweather won?t fight, right??

Meeting Obama

With that, Pacquiao and company climbed into a black sport-utility vehicle and sped toward the historic Hay Adams Hotel.

On Tuesday, Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, walked Pacquiao through the Senate floor, presented him with a US flag and took him to the audience with Obama, which lasted roughly five minutes and centered on boxing, basketball and politics. On the way, cars slowed to take photographs of Pacquiao, and a four-car pileup resulted. (No one was hurt.)

Pacquiao described himself as ?honored.? This came in another news conference, where Pacquiao, ever the promoter, slipped in a mention of his fight. New York Times News Service

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