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Macau welcomes Pacquiao in style

Manny Pacquiao, Chris Algieri,


MACAU (AP) – Manny Pacquiao didn’t need the huge bouquet of flowers he was holding to feel welcome in this gambling enclave, where he will be fighting at an odd hour Sunday against an opponent who has to already feel as though he won boxing’s biggest lottery.

Pacquiao got them anyway Tuesday night at his official grand entrance in the lobby of the massive Venetian hotel-casino. He smiled and posed with them because there’s a fight with Chris Algieri to sell, something Pacquiao seems to be taking more seriously as his career begins heading into the later rounds.

There are also new rumblings along the Floyd Mayweather Jr. front, but more on that later. For now, Pacquiao seems re-energized as he plots what he hopes will be a spectacular performance that might stop talk about his declining knockout power – he hasn’t had a stoppage in five years now – and entice Mayweather to finally enter the ring with him sometime next year in what would surely be boxing’s richest fight ever.

“I’m not predicting a knockout, but I’m looking for a good fight and looking to prove I can still fight,’’ Pacquiao said. “I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m not ducking anyone.’’

That includes Mayweather, of course, and promoter Bob Arum said there have been some preliminary behind-the-scenes talks to make the long-awaited fight finally happen. Whether it actually takes place, though, depends largely on Mayweather, who only recently has given indications he may be more agreeable to make the fight than he has in the past.

Arum said he has had recent discussions with Leslie Moonves, head of CBS Corp., about the fight and is somewhat optimistic that the parent company of the Showtime network Mayweather is contracted to can help get it made.

“I believe they have talked to Mayweather and that he is on board,’’ Arum said. “Whether that is true or not, I don’t know.’’

Arum could be using the possibility of a Mayweather fight to try to spark interest in Pacquiao’s second bout in China, which will take place about noon Sunday so it can be sold on pay-per-view in the United States. A Pacquiao-Mayweather fight has been the talk of boxing for five years now, and nothing has come of it, mainly because Mayweather wants to control his own destiny and wants nothing to do with his Arum, his former promoter.

Pacquiao could certainly use a fight with Mayweather to revitalize his career and possibly cement his legacy as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his time. But if he doesn’t take care of business against Algieri in a fight in which he is heavily favored, boxing may never get the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight that is the one fans really want.

“Let’s finish this fight first,’’ the Filipino congressman said Tuesday. “My job is to fight. I’m not picking opponents. Whoever wants to fight me, we will fight.’’

In Algieri, Pacquiao has an opponent who seems to have everything but a big punch. Algieri is a promoter’s dream, a college graduate with a masters in clinical nutrition who wants to be a doctor. Algieri still lives in his parents’ basement on Long Island, but talks confidently about not only beating Pacquiao but making himself into a big name.

Algieri got the fight after getting off the canvas twice in the first round to win a disputed decision over Ruslan Provodnikov for a piece of the welterweight title in June. They will fight this bout at a catch weight of 144 pounds.

Arum said he believes Algieri’s story will help sell the fight, unlike Pacquiao’s first fight in Macau last November against Brandon Rios that did well at the box office but was not a pay-per-view smash.

“This time we’re selling Algieri instead of trying to sell the fight as being from China,’’ Arum said. “So far it seems to be working.’’