Monday, May 4, 2015

Going The Distance with Pacman and AirAsia

It's been said that the entire city slows down each time Pacman enters the ring. That Sunday morning, Metro Manila, and the entire country, slowed down to a halt. It was, after all, the fight of the century. 


AirAsia, as part of its exclusive partnership with Team Pacquiao, invited special guests to a live screening of the Pacquiao-Mayweather Bout last Sunday at MOA's Center Stage. AirAsia also provided simultaneous live screenings at Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Boracay, and Davao. Ten rounds that took almost five years of intense negotiations, live on the big screen.


Dubbed as the Fight of the Century, with perhaps the very best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, uniting the entire country through ten full rounds of boxing. Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, at the apex of his storied career, once again carried the hopes and prayers of an entire nation in a much anticipated match-up with Floyd Mayweather. Rising from humble beginnings, Manny Pacquiao represents the collective aspirations of every Filipino, that anything is possible (for more on Pacman, check out my previous post on Air Asia and Manny Pacquiao here at http://soloexpeditions.blogspot.com/2014/11/pacman-up-close.html). As we walked up the aisle to our seats, an air of excitement seemed to buzz, with everyone rooting for the Man from GenSan.


A warm and friendly smile from AirAsia's beautiful staff added to the excitement, completing the experience. As we settled in our seats, the big screen and the sound of the crowd gave that uncanny impression of being there, almost in the middle of it all at the MGM Grand in Vegas.


Viewers received an additional treat as AirAsia distributed inflatable clappers, fans, caps and t-shirts, adding to the festive mood. Many put on the shirts and caps in a show of solidarity and support, and the MOA Center Stage slowly transformed in a sea of red and white. As the last of the preliminary card bouts ended, the crowd's excitement kicked up a notch. And everyone knew, no matter how the main card would go, history would be made.


The rendition of the national anthem brought a sense of pride, unleashing a torrent of emotion and hope, feelings that have remained dormant after a series of political and national issues sapped out whatever remained. It seemed the entire country needed this match, just to gain some momentum, and rise from all the negativity that seemed to dominate the national news. In the next few rounds, every Filipino stood together, united in a common cause. Pacman was tagged as the underdog, but that was expected. Like Manny Pacquiao, every Filipino seemed to be used to being the underdog, and this was nothing new.


As the final emphatic notes of the anthem were sung, I'm still amazed at the cross-section of fans, both young and old, even entire families, together for the fight of the century. And that's what makes Pacman special. No other figure has galvanized a nation like this in a long time.


The excitement reached a fever pitch as soon as the bell rang for the first round, and the inflatable clappers and loud cheers seemed to just come from every spot in the theater. Each jab, each flurry of punches thrown by Pacman raised the intensity of the crowd even higher.


The opening round and the succeeding two rounds showcased the classic Pacman style, a gung-ho brawler who constantly kept moving forward despite the reach advantage of Floyd Mayweather. Everything seemed to go Pacman's way, the feisty underdog who kept charging forward despite the odds. And as Pacman let loose a barrage of punches at a cornered Mayweather, the crowd's cheers grew even louder, expecting that one big punch to sneak in and end it all, just like Pacman's previous bouts. But Mayweather studied his opponent well, reading all of his offensive moves with a series of evasive maneuvers and efficient counter punches that kept Pacman from gaining the momentum. By the fourth round, the crowd realized this match will definitely go the distance. And it did.


After the fifth round, Floyd Mayweather just proved to be too fast and too slick, with the right plan to counter a brawler like Pacman. Shifting from side to side, evading each charge while dropping even more counter punches. With a much wider stance and a reach advantage, Floyd Mayweather showed exactly how to handle a brawler. And he dictated the tempo, using his own pace and terms to frustrate Pacman even more. And everyone knows that the surest way to frustrate a brawler is to move and avoid any toe-to-toe stand-offs, a hallmark of Pacman's familiar style. To many fans, it seemed Mayweather was simply running away from Pacman's charges, but it became evident that was the game plan. One could sense Pacman's frustration, with each unsuccessful offensive after another foiled by a clinch or a defensive jab. And the crowd felt it too, with each second of each round slipping away. By the tenth and final round, there was an air of desperation as Pacman failed to land that single punch that mattered. Behind on points, the crowd pleaded for one more charge, one more punch, one more attempt at history. But he was out-played, and perhaps, even out-smarted. Maybe Pacman became too predictable, or Mayweather simply had the right game plan designed to counter a brawler. But whatever the case may be, both boxers showed their best at the ring.


But the sporting gods didn't go Pacman's way that Sunday morning. At the end of the tenth round, the full distance, there was this nagging feeling that a chance at history slowly slipped away. And when the unanimous decision was announced, the reaction was pretty obvious, but then, everyone somehow expected it. A lot's been said about the match of the century, but one can't deny the fact that these two warriors may be the best boxers yet. Showcasing contrasting styles, a scientific and technical game plan versus an all-out approach running on pure heart. Despite the loss, Pacman kept fighting, and that's all that mattered. Going the distance with everything you've got despite the odds. Sounds like a winner to me. And that's everyone's Pacman laying it out, all heart and nothing less. It may not have been the perfect ending, but it's enough to inspire us all as we go the distance in our own personal bouts.

For more on Air Asia, check out their FB Page here.

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