It's Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri fight week, but there’s so much more to it than the main-event participants.
“Mini-Manny,” “Miss Long Island,” and “The Singing Pastors” have also stepped onto the stage.
“We could do a miniseries on this promotion. So many things have happened out of the blue … anything is possible,” fight promoter Bob Arum said.
The hilarity was ignited Wednesday night at the fight’s news conference when flyweight Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym of Thailand stepped toward the microphone to speak.
The familiar hairstyle, the trademark goatee, even the facial expression … the audience erupted in laughter at the similarity between Onesongchaigym and Pacquiao, who turned to look behind him and was so in awe of the resemblance he did a near-whiplash double-take that elicited even more roaring.
Zou Shiming, the two-time Olympic champion from China who’ll fight Onesongchaigym, followed his foe to the microphone and said, “That was a very interesting scene. I realize I'm fighting someone who looks like Manny Pacquiao.”
At least Shiming had a translator.
Onesongchaigym (27-0, 12 knockouts) spoke in Thai, and his Hawaii-based trainer attempted to summarize what was said, except he doesn’t speak Thai.
We repeat: He doesn’t speak Thai, and he trains the fighter.
So the following day, a man in Onesongchaigym’s camp accompanied the fighter to the media center so his words could be properly translated – by the wife of the man, over a cellphone.
A group of reporters were subjected to a lengthy routine of a question being asked, it getting repeated into the phone, a conversation between the fighter and the translator occurring, and the man in the fighter’s corner asking, “What’d he say?” then repeating the answer.
The highlights of the “Mini-Manny” news conference:
“For the last two years fighting in Thailand, many people have said he looks like Manny Pacquiao, his favorite fighter is Manny Pacquiao, so he tries to look the same … for two years, he’s tried to imitate Manny – the way he fights, the way he looks,” the translator’s husband said. “He’s not as heavy, but Manny is his idol, and he likes to look like him. Everyone thinks he’s the Manny Pacquiao of Thailand.”
How’d it feel to meet Manny? “Very honored that Manny met him and realized he looks like him.”
What did he think of the failed translation? “He just said his own story, thanked Bob Arum for giving him the opportunity on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao.”
Thursday took us to a Pacquiao workout, where the fighter’s trainer, Freddie Roach, started yelling at two women, one of whom is a former “Miss Long Island” beauty queen employed by Algieri’s promotional company, Star Boxing.
Roach kicked the women out of the gym, denying their interview requests with Pacquiao after accusing them of filming the fighter’s Wednesday training session.
On Friday, Algieri trainers Tim Lane and Keith Trimble denied viewing a Pacquiao training video.
“I’m not concerned with watching what he’s doing the last week before a fight,” Trimble said. “I’m not going to figure out a new game plan or do something different in four days.”
Roach said he didn’t regret escalating his confrontation with Cara Castronuova, or “Miss Long Island,” and a trainer on the television series, "The Biggest Loser," even though she later explained to The Times that she only intended to use the Pacquiao footage as part of a documentary she’s making about Algieri.
“It’s fine now, but I saw her filming and knew what she was up to after an entire day of filming the day before … that was enough, just putting everyone in their place,” Roach said. “Someone from his camp should not be in mine.”
Arum ate up the incident, telling a reporter, “That’s bloggable!”
After that workout, Pacquiao headed up to his suite at the Venetian Macao to listen to a group of singing pastors he pushed to sing the national anthem of the Philippines on fight night.
Former “American Idol” contestant Jessica Sanchez was scheduled to sing, but Pacquiao heard the pastors, a group known as “The Word,” and wanted them.
It’s a heavy burden. Five years ago, a singer at Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton improvised on the anthem too much for a group of Filipino legislators’ liking, and the lawmakers asked to invoke a national law that can force anyone who botches the anthem to jail. They ultimately backed off.
Just to be safe, Pacquiao supervised rehearsal on Thursday.
“This could be the first time it’s sung in the perfect tune and tempo,” Pacquiao friend Winchell Campos said.