It seems Las Vegas is not a taker anymore of a Pacquiao fight.
It could be that Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao, aka Senator of the Republic of the Philippines Emmanuel Pacquiao, is no longer the boxing world’s flavor of the month.
And so, Malaysia it is for what could be the last hurrah for the Filipino international icon and Lord of the Rings in so many weight divisions that even Lucas Matthysse of Argentina would probably have a hard time ticking the titles off.
On July 15, Matthysse will defend his World Boxing Association welterweight (147 pounds) crown against Pacquiao in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
But there is no boxing in that Southeast Asian neighbor of the Philippines, only football and badminton.
So, who’s going to watch the “Thrilla in Malaysia” (of sorts and with apologies to “The Greatest’ Muhamad Ali)?
Perhaps, your uncle and his nephews and nieces from Aparri or Zamboanga.
But you can expect politicians, hangers-on, celebrity types and not so true-blue fans of the sport from the Philippines to be at the Axiata Arena (seating capacity: 16,000) in KL.
It’s cheaper to fly from Manila to Kuala Lumpur than it is from Manila to Nevada, for one.
With so few seats, as compared with the 30,000-seater Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, it would not be a tall order for the promoter to pack to the rafters the venue of the Matthysse-Pacquiao clash.
That ringmaster, thus, would save himself from the embarrassment of a half-empty (half-full?) arena.
The Don King was the first to try Malaysia as the battleground for one of his biggest promotions.
“Thrilla in Manila” in 1975, which he eventually staged in the Philippines, would not have been held at all in the country.
This bit of information came from Imee Marcos, now governor of Ilocos Norte province in Northern Luzon, whom this corner interviewed more than a year ago.
“They [King camp] wanted the fight in Malaysia,” apparently because, in 1974, Ali fought Joe Bugner there and won by decision over 15 rounds.
Perhaps, it was also because Malaysia was a Muslim country (the former Cassius Clay had already converted to Islam).
Then-President Ferdinand Marcos, however, was able to persuade King to hold the fight in the Philippines’ capital then, Quezon City.
“There is no boxing in Malaysia,” Imee remembered her dad tell the renowned promoter to persuade King to change his mind.
There is still none.
Besides, the then-leader said, the Philippines was expecting throngs of tourists and other visitors because five new five-star hotels in Metro Manila had just opened their doors.
Her father, according to Imee, capped his sales pitch by dropping the big news that the Asian Development Bank or ADB had just decided to put up its headquarters in Manila.
And so the Philippines it was, finally, and the rest is history.
If history meant to be kind to Pacquiao, 39, then the boxing gods would make him win.
If he lost to Matthysse, 35, history would also be made but a little unkind to President Rodrigo Duterte’s good friend.
We advice both camps to check if there are no scheduled marquee football or badminton matches in the Malaysian capital on D-Day.
Doing so would save them a lot of grief, not to mention a fiasco in their hands.