Manny Pacquiao causes a stir during visit to Capitol Hill
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 12:02 AM
Nothing creates a stir on stodgy Capitol Hill quite like a celebrity appearance, and at the center of the commotion on Tuesday was boxer Manny Pacquiao, a world champion in eight divisions and among the most highly regarded fighters of all time.
Recently elected to congress in his native Philippines, Pacquiao turned his inaugural visit to the District into a two-fold venture. First, as a guest of Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), he toured the Senate floor in the morning and later went to the White House for a private meeting with President Obama. Pacquiao had campaigned for Reid during the last round of elections, and the majority leader, himself a former boxer, went so far as to say that support pushed him to victory in a tight race.
But Pacquiao, 32, also used the short news conference to promote his bout against former WBA welterweight champion Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7. Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 knockouts) is a 7-1 favorite over Mosley, who at 39 is in the twilight of his career and has gone 0-1-1 in his past two fights. The loss was to Floyd Mayweather, whose legal troubles have further complicated a potential fight against Pacquiao that would be one of the richest and most anticipated in the sport's history.
"The only other fighter that was capable of this was [Muhammad] Ali," longtime promoter Bob Arum, whose stable of fighters as head of Top Rank Boxing includes Pacquiao, said of the excitement surrounding his high-profile client's visit to Capitol Hill. "I remember years ago bringing [Sugar Ray] Leonard and [Tommy] Hearns to the Capitol . . . but nothing like this, nothing like this. The fact that the senator would walk Manny on the floor of the Senate, that's a great, great honor."
Inside the ring, Pacquiao's most lofty acclaim would come by beating Mayweather, 33, in a dream matchup that has hit one snag after another after an initial agreement early last year. Among those was the refusal on the part of Pacquiao's camp to consent to Olympic-style drug testing, as Mayweather's camp was insisting. Now comes a series of domestic violence allegations facing Mayweather, who is charged with multiple felonies stemming from an altercation with ex-girlfriend Josie Harris.
Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) has won nine world titles in five weight classes and also is considered among the greatest pound-for-pound fighters not only of his generation but in history. Pacquiao was in and out of Tuesday's news conference so quickly that he was able to escape questions about that possible fight, but he did address that topic on Thursday in Los Angeles, where he and Mosley appeared at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a promotional stop.
"For me, if the fight is to happen, it would be good for the fans," Pacquiao said. "It's what the fans want. For now though, I'm praying for [Mayweather] that it will be okay, you know, with his personal problems."
Pacquiao, meantime, is coming off a victory over Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex. Pacquiao won the vacant WBC super welterweight belt by unanimous decision despite giving up 17 pounds to Margarito, who immediately after the fight was transported to a hospital. Doctors determined Margarito had fractured his orbital bone and required surgery.
The District was to be Pacquiao's final stop on a press junket that began in Los Angeles and included appearances in Las Vegas and New York, where he and Mosley addressed the media at Chelsea Pier on Monday afternoon. Pacquiao and his entourage then traveled by train to Union Station that night.