As Manny Pacquiao and his entourage pull into Vegas today the city is hot with anticipation. As bad as the traffic is on the strip it is getting worse. Vacationers love to cruise the strip and ooh and ahh at the lights, watch the people and imagine sudden wealth in the eye-popping casinos. The normal elbow-to-elbow foot traffic is expected to get claustrophobic as wide-eyed and expectant fans and journalists make their way. As the highways, byways and local airport start to deliver people from far and wide the city is throbbing. As Mayweather and Pacquiao make their appearances and put final touches on training and fight strategy, why Pacman is a safe bet starts to materialize.
Listen in on any conversation, whether in a casino, watching the lights at the Bellagio water show or at a local gas station and the odds are very good that one will hear excited talk about the coming Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. A non-scientific polling of passers-by and gamblers informs this journalist-interlocutor that roughly eight of every ten people are pulling for Pacquiao to win the fight. While the odds-makers and bettors continue to make Mayweather the odds-on-favorite to win the fight, pedestrian Jane and Joe see, or rather hope, for a different outcome. Most are either too cash-short or afraid to make a bet but if they could, those eight out of ten express an honest desire to do so.
While there is money to be made on a bet for Mayweather the better bet, is Pacquiao. High rollers tend to go with what is known in betting circles as the live dog. That is, an underdog that, according to a proper, sometimes insider, reading of the evidence that is generally not popularly known or appreciated, suggests an upset is in the making. When Pacquiao fought De La Hoya the popular sentiment was for a bigger, more seasoned De La Hoya to rough-house and punish and ultimately knock out the smaller, less powerful Pacquiao. As it turned out, bettors who went with Pacquiao were privy to a quality of information that compelled a heavy bet on what turned out to be the obvious choice, Pacman. In that fight, consistent with what insiders actually knew was going to happen, Pacman destroyed De La Hoya forcing him to quit on his stool.
It is in these bets that the dreams of pedestrian Jane and Joe actually do come true and millionaires become multimillionaires ten times over. When Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield for the first time back in 1996 the Real Deal was considered to be one of those live dogs. While the odds were big for Tyson and the media obsessed about Holyfield’s so-called heart problems, insiders knew that he had a style that would, if executed appropriately, give Tyson fits. As late and very big money poured in for Holyfield the casinos were left stunned by the amount they ended up paying out.
While the odds are much closer for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight insiders know something, and as the high roller money is starting to come in for Pacquiao they seem to know why Pacman is a safe bet. Upon objective review of the evidence many insiders, those who are actually betting on Pacquiao, have been moved to lay money down on a Pacquiao victory over Mayweather for a number of reasons. Chief among those reasons is Pacquiao himself; the fire in his belly, his active faith in a higher power, his disgust with Mayweather’s hedonistic lifestyle and above all, because of his absolute command of a fighting style that is the shoulder roll’s worst nightmare.
As it turns out, like the money that went in for Holyfield then later for Pac against De La Hoya, there is actually little risk in the transaction. These gamblers have turned gambling, what is by definition a risky proposition, into a soft-science where outcomes are less a matter of faith than knowledge. And like the persecution bettors for Holyfield back in the day endured, these gambles are getting their fair share of awkward, even persecutorial looks by their uninformed friends and family, including a media that has the preponderance of journalists buying the hype and falling prey to the group think and peer pressure that runs amok amongst sports journalists.
In a corner of the main casino at the Bellagio sits a middle-aged expatriate Filipino woman. She and her Indian born, engineer husband frequent the casinos and because of well-timed investments along the way, have made a nice living for themselves, their four children and family back in the Philippines. Because they have been classified as high rollers they are generally “comped” tickets to high profile Mayweather and Pac fights and are given VIP treatment and rooms on a regular basis. The family was honored to meet Pacquiao himself after a recent fight and consider it the relative highlight of their lives.
When asked what turned out to be an uninformed question about who she was rooting for, Mayweather or Pacquiao, the woman, with a smile on her face, suggested that the interrupting journalist should have done a bit of homework. In doing so the journalist would have discovered that this is the biggest fight in the history of boxing, featuring one of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing. He is from a city and country that has faith in him. It is a faith she adds, that is real and genuine. And yes, she is betting heavily on Pacquiao to beat Mayweather as she is privy she says, to a quality of not-so-insider information that leaves little doubt as to outcomes. “Pac,” she declares, “is fighting for me and my people.”
Back on the strip, as the daylight turns into flashing neon, and the rhythm of the traffic starts to pound, there is a palpable excitement in the air. This is no average fight with just average fighters. Two of the most gifted athletes, not just in boxing but in any sport, are about to compete on what turns out to be the biggest stage in the history of the sport. In one corner is Floyd Mayweather Jr., the self-styled best ever, known for his lavish and perhaps selfish lifestyle. In the other corner is Manny Pacquiao, a humble servant of the people, a man possessed of the idea that he represents his God and is here to do his work. As it turns out, this work is to represent a proud people who look to him as the symbol of not only all that is good in them, but for the poor and forgotten who might see in him a role model to keep moving forward.
As Mayweather and Pacquiao go through their obligatory motions and scripted pre-fight rituals in the days leading up the fight, why Pacman is a safe bet is written all over the faces of his many fans. They are privy to a quality of information that makes a bet on Pacquiao less a risk than a sure thing. The intangibles that govern any prize fight appear to be present and felt as one makes one’s way down the strip. There is indeed high energy but for all the world, most feel it as an air of expectancy where not only will Mayweather and Pacquiao put on a fight for the ages, but good, will undoubtedly, triumph over evil.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows