Pacman coming Down Under with a big entourage
BOXING: Manny Pacquiao will arrive in Brisbane next Monday paving the way for a Filipino army to descend on Suncorp Stadium for the world welterweight title defence against Fighting Schoolteacher Jeff Horn on July 2.
Pacquiao will lead a 15-man promotional tour around Australia's east coast next week, but that is only a taste of the huge entourage expected to follow him to Brisbane for the biggest fight ever held in Australia.
When Pacquiao beat American Chris Algieri in Macau in 2014 the boxer turned Filipino senator hired two passenger jets to bring more than 350 of his closest family and friends to the fight.
On board were trainers, cornermen, sparring partners, business advisers, political allies, teammates in his professional basketball team as well as poor Filipinos grateful for his generosity and a free ticket to the fight.
His close friends say the World Boxing Organization welterweight champ is generous to a fault and worry about how lavishly he spends money.
Born into abject poverty, Pacquiao has built more than 1000 houses for the poor near his hometown, General Santos City, but says he still has plenty left from the $500 million ($500 million) he has made from winning 11 world titles over the last 22 years.
"I will never forget where I came from,” Pacquiao, a born-again Christian, said recently.
"I thank God for allowing me to help other people.
"I'm so happy giving houses free to my constituents from my own pocket.”
Pacquiao earned more than $100 million losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2015 and will likely collect more than $10 million from fighting Horn in a bout being sponsored by the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones says it will be one of the world's biggest sporting events for 2017 and should bring 20,000 visitors to Brisbane in a multimillion-dollar boost for the State's economy.
Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum told The Courier-Mail from Las Vegas that while he expects the fighter to charter aircraft for his family and friends for the Brisbane fight, thousands of Pacquiao's fans in the Philippines are also expected to make their own way to Brisbane days before the contest.
"You cannot believe the support Manny has in his own country,” Arum said.
"When he travels for a fight it is like a royal tour.
"We've taken this fight on July 2 because it's a time when the Filipino Senate will be in recess but if the senators wanted to hold a quorum they could do it in Brisbane because there will be so many of them ringside.
"There will be thousands of Filipino people coming down for the fight not to mention that there are about 200,000 Filipino people in Australia.”
Pacquiao, 38, will arrive in Brisbane next Monday with Jinkee, his wife of 17 years, as well as her sister and brother-in-law to conduct press conferences in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne ahead of the fight that is expected to draw 55,000 people, the biggest crowd ever at Suncorp Stadium.
"We were concerned about how many days Manny would spend in Australia doing publicity,” Arum said.
"But now that his wife and family members are also coming next week they are going to make a holiday of it. They are really looking forward to seeing Brisbane.”
Arum said Pacquiao had made no special "rock star'' requests about accommodation in Brisbane except that he wanted a large hotel suite or apartment with cooking facilities.
"He is very particular about his food when he's in training,” Arum said.
Pacquiao's coach Los Angeles-based Freddie Roach is expected in Brisbane in two weeks to decide on a suitable gym where Pacquiao will finish his training in the 12 days leading up to the fight.
Pacquiao will also spend six weeks training with Roach in Manila.