MARQUEZ vs. PACQUIAO

March 15, 2008 // 11 p.m. ET

A Pac Attack // Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas

BEHIND - THE - SCENES BLOG

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong


Saturday, 11:10 p.m. ET -- Luevano wins a tough one

Steven Luevano was in a tough, tough fight against Terdsak Jandaeng tonight. He retained his WBO featherweight title by seemingly over-generous scores of 118-109 and 119-109 twice.

Stevie deserved to win; his jab was the difference in the fight. But Terdsak was rough and tough, and floored him in the fourth. Stevie knocked him down at the end of that round, but it was ruled a slip.

The crowd is getting very excited for the main event now. I'm going to toss it to my man Darius Ortiz for the round-by-round. Thanks for following the blogging. The blog has left the building! -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 11:10 p.m. ET -- In the house

Some of the current and former fighters in the house tonight:

Richie Sandoval
Humberto Gonzalez
Daniel Zaragoza
Zab Judah
Winky Wright
Marco Antonio Barrera
Sugar Shane Mosley
Mike Tyson
Oscar De La Hoya
-- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 10:55 p.m. ET -- Atmosphere

Feels like a really good, exciting big-fight atmosphere tonight. My first hint of just how packed it would be was when I hopped on the monorail to Mandalay Bay earlier this evening. There are normally just a few people on the tram, which runs constantly back and forth between the Mandalay and the Excalibur, but this time it was packed.

Walking into the casino, there was that immediate hum of energy and a big crowd milling around outside the Events Center. Now the crowd inside the arena is almost full and I have a suspicion this is going to be one of the better fight crowds I've experienced in a while. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET -- Sitting near a legend

You get to see a lot of traffic when you're seated next to a legend (and no, I don't mean my friend and fellow scribe Robert Morales of the Long Beach Telegram).

Julio Cesar Chavez is sitting a couple of seats along from me, and so what if he is broadcasting live? Even his fellow fighters want to stop by and say hello.

Jorge Arce was the latest, shaking his hand and kissing him on the cheek, then smiling and squeezing his way past the laptop-laden tables. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 10:10 p.m. ET -- First blood to Mexico

Diosdado Gabi weighed in overweight for his supposed 118-pound bout with Abner Mares. He put on 17 pounds between then and entering the ring, he looked overweight, drained and off balance from the very beginning. Mares wobbled him badly in the first and dropped him twice in the second before referee Jay Nady waved it off at 49 seconds of the frame. The Mexicans in the crowd are cheering and chanting "Me-xi-co." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 9:55 p.m. ET -- Dangerous David

"Dangerous" David Diaz was too strong and too good for game Ramon Montano, but the ease with which the light-punching and fast-handed Montano tagged him in the early going should give Diaz's people pause at the thought of a potential bout with Manny Pacquiao.

Against that, Diaz is so big and so strong, he'd be a tough, tough test for PacMan or any opponent, for that matter. After a bright start, Montano was gradually worn down and Diaz tried hard in he final two rounds to be the first person to stop him. Oddly, judge Glenn Trowbridge saw it as a 95-95 draw, but Dave Moretti saw it 99-91 and Robert Hoyle as 97-93 for Diaz. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET -- Manny is in the building

The overhead screens just showed Manny Pacquiao entering the dressing room areas, smiling as always.

The sight brought a big cheer of "Manny! Manny!" from the Filipino contingent, but a strong chant of "Marquez! Marquez!" erupted in opposition. It's difficult to tell, the arena still isn't even a third full, but from everything I've seen this week, I think the two sides are going to be fairly evenly matched in terms of fan support tonight. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 9:10 p.m. ET -- Ringside

OK, fight fans, here we go. The pay-per-view broadcast is getting underway with a non-title fight featuring lightweight titlist David Diaz. I'm seated in Broadcast Central here; the international telecast team of Rich Marotta and Wally Matthews immediately in front of me and the TV Azteca commentary team, including the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, to my left. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 7:55 p.m. ET -- Ouch.

Baudel Cardenas of Mexico was acquitting himself well in his featherweight contest against Freddie Roach-trained Filipino Michael Farenas until Farenas dropped him with a left hook to the body in Round 2. Cardenas complained the blow was low, but it looked to be on the hip. A second body-shot knockdown in the round looked much more questionable. There was absolutely no doubt about the third round knockdown, however, a blow so low it was arcing upward when it hit Cardenas in the groin, lifting his feet off the canvas.

Groans and boos throughout the arena as the overhead screens showed the shot. Cardenas was given five minutes to recover, but could not, so Farenas was awarded the TKO victory. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 7:35 p.m. ET -- Fight day

First fight of the evening just concluded, a junior middleweight bout between Esau Herrera (trained by Nacho Beristain) and Byron Tyson. It was a scrappy affair but both guys put forward an earnest and honest effort. Herrera scored a slightly questionable knockdown in round four. The scores were 57-56 for Tyson and two scores of 57-57, for a majority draw. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 5:50 p.m. ET -- Wrong time, wrong place

During his turn at the dais, Shane Mosley's father/trainer Jack kept referring to fighting on March 31 instead of May 31. Apart from the usual snippy remarks among a few journalists, nobody said anything about it, until Zab piped up: "Jack, if he shows up to fight on March 31, he gonna be here by himself." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 5:45 p.m. ET -- Mosley and Judah quotes

Some quotes from Zab "Super" Judah and "Sugar" Shane Mosley at the press conference to announce their May 31 welterweight clash here at Mandalay Bay:

Zab Judah: "Everybody who's watched Zab Judah's career knows what I've been through. There comes a time in life when you have to grow up. You've seen some 100 percent Zab fights, but some of the big ones were kinda rushed, I didn't have time to prepare. I'm preparing myself mentally and physically for this. On May 31, you're gonna see the old Super Judah."

Shane Mosley: "The fight with Miguel Cotto gave me another jolt. We're just ready to go. We want to take care of business of May 31 and then move on to the rematch we've got to have with Cotto. I'm not looking past Zab because in his fight with Cotto, I think he hurt Cotto a little more than I did. I just want to be the top dog: fight Cotto, fight Mayweather. I'm too old to take a backward step now." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 5:40 p.m. ET -- Barrios and Juarez

The co-main event for the May 31 pay-per-view between Shane Mosley and Zab Judah will be a super featherweight eliminator between Rocky Juarez and Jorge Barrios.

Juarez claimed that the fight "will be the turning point where I return to championship level. I've fallen short three times at the championship level [twice against Marco Antonio Barrera, once against Juan Manuel Marquez], but I still believe Rocky Juarez will become world champion."

Barrios, who may have a poor translator or an odd sense of humor (or some other less charitable explanation) said that he was looking forward to his May 31 bout at the Mandalay Bay "so that my family can see this beautiful hotel." He then said that Juarez "looks very much like the popular Walt Disney character Snow White."

None of us understood it, either. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET -- From breakfast to brunch

Top Rank's breakfast buffet at the China Grill was more than adequate. Top Rank video producer Rick Seara seemed to eat most of the bacon while yours truly helped himself to plenty of eggs and potatoes. Harold Lederman noticed the absence of bagels.

"I'll buy you a bagel afterward, Harold," said Top Rank's PR guy, Lee Samuels.

No need. We went straight from breakfast at the China Grill to brunch, and another press conference, in the media center, where there were bagels aplenty.

At first I was a little surprised when Arum made sure we were all aware of the next presser, given that it was to announce a fight of which Top Rank is not a part.

"It's to announce a fight between Shane Mosley and Zab Judah," said Arum. "It's a terrific fight."

Then he smiled slyly again.

"It's the Miguel Cotto Consolation Championship," he chuckled, a reference to the fact that the bout would be between the Puerto Rican star's two most recent victims. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 4:45 p.m. ET -- Arce throws down an oversized gauntlet

While he was talking about Julio Chavez Jr., Bob Arum mentioned the youngster's continued growth; indeed, he looks much different from the skinny youngster, allegedly 18, who made his Las Vegas debut four years ago.

"Every time I see him, he gets bigger," said the promoter. "I told him, 'Get ready for [middleweight champ Kelly] Pavlik'", at which point he turned to pat Chavez on the shoulder. Except that Chavez was sitting on the other side of him, and the man he turned toward was in fact Jorge "Travieso" Arce, the former flyweight champ now campaigning as a bantamweight. Arce looked less than enthralled at the idea of fighting at 160 pounds, but he did rashly throw down the gauntlet to 122-pound champ Israel Vazquez.

"Even though he is much bigger than me, I would love to fight Israel Vazquez," he said, suggesting November as a possible date.

First, he is fighting on the next Latin Fury card on May 17.

"He's fighting the WBC No. 3 guy from Thailand for a final eliminator," said Arum, smiling. "We don't know the Thai guy's name. We only speak English, Spanish and Filipino."

Also on that card, by the way, will be the other boxing Chavez son, Omar, a lightweight who actually looks and fight more like his famous father than does Julio Jr. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET -- The son also rises

Top Rank kicked off the "feed-the-media" Saturday smorgasbord with a breakfast meet-and-greet with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. The son of J.C. Superstar will be fighting Italian Michele Orlando on Top Rank's third "Latin Fury" card on April 26.

All you need to know about Orlando is that, notwithstanding alleged credentials as a former Italian and European champion, his most recent bout was a six round decision win and the one before that was an eight-rounder. As recently as July 2006, he was fighting the legendary Virgil Meleg, who boasted a record of 5-30-1. But Arum and Top Rank make no apologies for the way they are bringing Chavez along. Arum reminded journalists on Saturday morning that Chavez had virtually no amateur experience and that "he is learning on the fly as a pro."

For his part, Chavez Jr. confessed to being "a little embarrassed because of my last performance [when he struggled before stopping Jose Celaya] … I could have done better. I would like to vindicate myself, and on April 26, you will see the best Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. you have seen." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 11 a.m. ET -- The buzz

By last night, the Mandalay Bay was already beginning to buzz with a big-fight atmosphere. There appear to be lots of famous Filipinos in the house, judging by the number of knots of folks wanting to take photos with attractive, confident-looking young things who I imagine are "Filipino Idol" contestants or some such. A purely unscientific guesstimate from the weigh-in leads this correspondent to predict an approximately equal level of volume and attendance from Mexican and Filipino fans tonight. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Saturday, 10:30 a.m. ET -- Fight day

It's the morning of the fight, and we'll be bringing you updates throughout the day, all the way through the main event and into the post-fight press conference. There'll be a media breakfast with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. this morning (wish I'd had the advantage of that experience before talking out of my hat about the kid on camera yesterday), immediately followed by a media brunch (got to keep those writers fed) and press conference featuring Shane Mosley and Zab Judah. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. ET and the first bout gets underway at about 7 ET. Televised undercard kicks off at around 9 p.m. ET, with the main event expected to start anywhere from 8:15 to 8:45 or so, depending on whether the televised undercard goes long. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Friday, 6 p.m. ET -- The weigh-in

No drama or controversy at the main event weigh-in. The fighters made weight -- Marquez 130 on the button, Pacquiao just under at 129. Both men looked ripped, in absolutely sensational shape. The crowd, which was vigorous and enthusiastic -- if slightly smaller than might be expected for a sell-out bout featuring two boxers with passionate fan bases -- roared as both men weighed in, flexed and posed for the cameras. Neither guy is much for the staredown and after holding the pose for maybe 10 seconds or so, Pacquiao stepped away and shook his opponent's hand, as the two men parted and left the stage. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET -- Counting down

I started my day filming an interview for HBO's "Countdown to Hopkins-Calzaghe." It's the third Countdown show I've filmed for HBO, and it's a good way to prepare for covering a fight, because each interview generally lasts well over an hour. Fortunately, I've covered quite a few Hopkins fights and spent a fair bit of time around The Executioner, so I like to think I acquitted myself pretty well.

I'm not at all sure I did anything like as good a job immediately after, when I sat down with Rick Seara of Top Rank to film an interview for their upcoming Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pay-per-view card. I was ringside when Chavez made his Las Vegas debut against Oisin Fagan, when he still looked like he was about 12, but apart from that I just haven't been following him closely enough to speak with much authority, so I pretty much just spouted platitudes and generalities for 15 minutes until Seara had enough. Fortunately, our own Dan Rafael is taking his turn now, so ESPN.com's blushed will be spared. We'll have at least one representative who knows what he's talking about … -- Kieran Mulvaney


Friday, 12:30 p.m. ET -- Q & A with MAB

Few people are better placed to judge Saturday's fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez than the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera, whose last two fights were against Marquez and Pacquiao, respectively.

The always classy former champion sat down for a few minutes with myself, Greg Beacham of the Associated Press and Mark Taffett of HBO PPV to share his thoughts.

Kieran Mulvaney: You know both Marquez and Pacquiao very well. What do you think is going to happen on Saturday night?

Marco Antonio Barrera: Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel are different, different style. Juan Manuel Marquez is intelligent, fast. Manny Pacquiao is strong. He throws punches all the time, but he has changed his style. I think both fighters are warriors.

KM: You're not going to make a prediction?

MAB [smiling]: Marquez is a Mexican, like me, so I support Juan Manuel Marquez.

KM: Is that important, given Pacquiao's rivalry with you and Erik Morales, for Marquez to win for Mexico?

MAB: Now Pacquiao [has] a new nickname, the "Mexican Killer." Maybe Juan Manuel Marquez can change the nickname and the history, because he has all to win and nothing to lose.

KM: Is Marquez still close enough to the top of his game to beat Pacquiao?

MAB: I think Juan Manuel is a very good fighter. Now he comes with hunger, he comes to change history, he comes to change everything.

KM: Is it better for Marquez to be fighting a rematch now, rather than four years ago?

MAB: Now is better for Juan Manuel because now he has experience. He has waited a long time for big fights. Now it is Juan Manuel's time to change history.

KM: Do you have a friendship with Juan Manuel?

MAB: No, only to say "Hi, hello." No more than that. And with Manny Pacquiao, we are very good friends. We talk.

KM: What do you admire most about Marquez as a fighter?

MAB: He is more intelligent and fast. Very fast. He moves very well around the ring. And Manny Pacquiao is strong, he throws punches all the time, and likes to fight face-to-face.

KM: Is Pacquiao the strongest fighter you've fought?

MAB: Yes. He is very strong.

KM: What must Juan Manuel do to win?

MAB: He must move. He is very fast, he's intelligent. And Manny always comes forward.

KM: So it is strength, for Pacquiao, versus strategy?

MAB: Yes. But now we must wait to make the strategy against Pacquiao, because we know that he changed. In his last fight he changed. I wait and wait and wait, and he never threw punches. So now we will see.

KM: So that surprised you in your fight? You were waiting to throw counterpunches and he never gave you the chance?

MAB: Never. [Chuckles.] That was a surprise to me.

KM: And what about you? You had talked about retiring. Now you want to keep on fighting?

MAB: I don't know. I need to talk with Richard [Schaefer] and Golden Boy, to talk about my future. If Golden Boy have good plans for me, big fights, I'm back. If they don't have big fights, I continue to clean my house, cooking, send my kids to school.

KM: You have nothing left to prove.

MAB: No, nothing.

KM: Is there still a desire to fight?

MAB: No, it's only because I don't like to retire with two losses. I worked very, very hard all the time to win, but my last two fights were losses. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Friday, 11 a.m. ET -- Diaz on the rise

In 1996, David Diaz was a member of the U.S. Olympic team, having twice beaten Zab Judah to earn his spot in Atlanta.

Two years later, he was all but through with boxing.

"I left the sport for two years in 1998 and then I decided to come back," he says. "I was not happy with how I was doing in boxing; then my brother passed away and my mother was going through kidney trouble. It was too much for me to handle, so I decided to hang them up for a while. And I wasn't doing well in boxing. I wasn't putting in the work."

When he did decide to return, he essentially had to start from the beginning:

"I had to start all over again, four-rounders. It was not like I was the Olympian, coming out of the Olympics. I had to start over with $700 fights."

Largely as a result, he has spent much of his career toiling in relative obscurity, until finally breaking through in August 2006 when he lifted the WBC lightweight title with a 10th round stoppage of Jose Armando Santa Cruz.

One year later, he outpointed Erik Morales, sending the Mexican legend into retirement, a fight that he says he still has trouble believing he was a part of.

"It's a little difficult to understand that I was in that fight, that I did that fight. It's kind of hard sometimes when people say, 'Hey, you had that fight with Morales,' I'm like, 'Oh yeah, that's right. That was me.' I'm very happy when people approach me and say, 'Great fight. You showed heart and character.' Every fight, I try to give 110 percent, to do my best."

Now, he's being lined up as the next opponent for Manny Pacquiao, assuming Pacquiao gets by Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, and assuming Diaz dispenses with Ramon Montano in a non-title bout that kicks off the pay-per-view broadcast.

For Diaz, it is sweet reward at the end of a long, hard road.

"All the hard work is now paying off," he says. "All the hard work I did, it's gratifying. I went through a lot; my family went through a lot. My dad and I went through a lot, so it's gratifying that he's with me here." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Friday, 10 a.m. ET -- It doesn't get much better

By the time I shake off my jetlag, it'll be time to move to another time zone.

I fell asleep at 9 p.m. PT last night (yeah, living it up in Las Vegas, that's me) and awoke at something like 3. Then tossed and turned until 6, when I gave up.

On the plus side, I did get a beard trimmer (I knew you were all wondering) and am now appropriately groomed for the interview I'll be filming this morning for HBO's Countdown to Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Thursday, 6:05 p.m. ET -- Freddie on Marquez

Freddie Roach also had a few things to say about his fighter's opponent for Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez:

"We're just kind of curious to see which Marquez comes. The good counter puncher that fought him the first fight? Or the one that's been [fighting] a little more aggressive his last couple of fights?"

"If he wants to trade punch-for-punch with us, I think we have the advantage. But he hit Manny with some good right hands in the last fight. I think [Marquez trainer] Nacho [Beristain]'s a very smart guy. He knows [counter punching] is the best way to fight Pacquiao. But can Marquez do that? Is he coming forward now because the legs are a little older? He took some punishment in that first fight, and he hasn't looked the same since then. Sometimes when fighters get older, they can come forward well, but going backward sometimes on old legs … So it could be a mental change, but it could be a physical change also."

"But hard fights like that take a toll on people. And he's not a young guy. He's pretty fresh, though, because he hasn't taken too many beatings in his life. Age doesn't matter in boxing; it's how many punches you take. You get older if you take too many punches, like me. I was 24 and the headlines said, 'Old Man Roach Makes Comeback.'"

"Barrera and Morales wouldn't fight him early in his career. I don't think it's because they were afraid of him personally, but I think their management knew that it was a bad style, and even if you beat him, you might look bad doing it. He doesn't have a pleasing style. He looked pretty good in the Pacquiao fight because Pacquiao made him fight. If you take him as a counter puncher, he's a little bit boring sometimes. If he'd have come along in the '70s in the Olympic Auditorium, he'd have been booed out of the auditorium because of his style. I'm not saying it's a bad style. Obviously, he's a great counter puncher and he's good at what he does. But the Mexican fans like a true fighter. Manny fights a little more like a real Mexican."


Thursday, 6 p.m. ET -- Freddie on Manny

I had a chance to chat with Manny Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach for a few minutes earlier.

He confirmed what Bob Arum (and PacMan himself) said about Pacquiao's renewed dedication and focus, something Roach feels was lacking in Pacquiao's two fights last year against Jorge Solis and Marco Antonio Barrera.

"It wasn't the physical part he was lacking, it was the mental," he said. "He was kind of going through the motions, because I don't think Solis or Barrera sparked him."

In contrast, Roach said, Pacquiao is fully focused on the threat posed by Marquez.

"He knows this guy came back from near-death [in the first fight]. He knows this is a hard fight. He knows this is a hard style for him to fight. But it's a fight that he wanted, I wanted, from the day after that first fight. He came [to camp] on time, actually a little bit early. He's training harder. And we're having a little bit of fun sometimes. I like having a happy fighter."

Indeed, he said, at times he has had to rein his fighter in a little, prevent him from over-training. "When we were doing road work this morning, I said 'time,' and he wanted to do one more lap. I had five guys block him. I said, 'You're not going any further.' He said, 'Let's walk one more,' and I said, 'OK, we'll walk one.'"

According to Roach, after his workout Wednesday, Pacquiao weighed 131 pounds. When we spoke, the fighter had just had breakfast, and Roach figured it probably would be the last meal Pacquiao would eat until after the weigh-in.

Roach paid credit to his man for his ability to learn and evolve as a boxer.

"He picks stuff up very quickly. Some fighters don't pick up so swiftly, they take longer. Like Oscar [De La Hoya]. Oscar's a great fighter, yes, but you have to spend more time with him. Manny is a quick learner. But he does get into a tendency to follow people at times, and you have to remind him from time to time to cut the ring off. If you follow Marquez around the ring, he'll walk you into shots, like he did in the first fight." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Thursday, 3 p.m. ET -- A few words with Arum

He's biased, of course, but count promoter Bob Arum among those expecting fireworks Saturday night.

"This can't help but be a really good fight," he said. "Both guys are in superb condition. I'm very confident in Pacquiao. The Marquez people are very confident as well, but I can't envision anyone beating Manny, the way he's trained and the way he's fighting now."

Arum has noticed a new sense of focus and dedication in his man, Pacquiao.

"The last year, he walked through the fights," he said. "He didn't train at all for the [Jorge] Solis fight; he was running for office. He was very distracted going into the [Marco Antonio] Barrera fight and didn't train except for one week in Los Angeles. He trained over there in the Philippines. I was troubled by that. But this is a new Manny, and he's rededicated himself. I think he knew that he couldn't walk through these fights any more, that he owed it to his fans to give them the best Manny that there is." -- Kieran Mulvaney


Thursday, 1:30 p.m. ET -- The city that never stops

Looking out over the Las Vegas Strip from the balcony of the Foundation Room yesterday, it was impossible not to be reminded of the enormous growth this city continues to undergo.

"Right now, there are 10 hotels being built," said Marty Crowin, the Las Vegas-based producer of Saturday night's international telecast. "That's another 20,000 rooms."

That's in addition to the 135,000 or so rooms already in existence in Las Vegas, 35,000 of them in properties run by MGM Mirage -- owner of the MGM Grand, Mandalay, Bellagio and others. Every month, it seems, there is a new tower, a new nightclub, an entirely new casino, rising from the ground.

The new City Center, also an MGM Mirage project, will, as its name suggests, create a self-enclosed town center with dining, accommodations, residences, shopping and entertainment just a block or two north of the Mandalay.

After several years, I have my favorite spots: the Forum Shops at Caesars, the fountains at Bellagio, the MGM and Mandalay. But it pays not to become too attached to anything around here. The first hotel I stayed in, the Frontier (the site of the first Vegas shows of a young Elvis Presley -- he bombed, by the way), now stands as an empty shell. The legendary Stardust, just to its north, was imploded last year.

Other famous landmarks like the Sands, which the Rat Pack made its second home, the Dunes and the Desert Inn all are long gone, their places taken by bigger, better, flashier properties.

And the amazing thing is that, particularly on a weekend when a big fight or other event is in town, almost every one of those properties will be filled to the brim. If you never have been to Vegas, for a fight or indeed for any reason, treat yourself if you possibly can. It's worth it. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Thursday, 1 p.m. ET -- Morning in Las Vegas

Weekday mornings are quiet times in Las Vegas casinos.

A few hardy souls already were sitting at the slot machines (a few hardier ones had been there since the night before), but as I walked across the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay to the media room this morning, I didn't have much company -- except for the video screens advertising an upcoming Fergie concert, some folks wandering around with coffee and convention-goers who, judging from the luggage they were pulling behind them, were preparing to leave town.

The last vestiges of the One Team conference (whatever that might be) still are in the hotel. "Changing the Game" boast the banners hanging from the ceilings, although which game these people are changing (and why and how) is unspecified. Their withdrawal means we get our usual media room back, but the phones still were being installed when some of us arrived this morning.

Bert Sugar has taken to sitting at the table and shouting "hello" into an ethernet cord as a subtle reminder that he's anxiously waiting for the phones. The good news for Bert is that while he waits, he can sit around and crack jokes. The bad news for the rest of us is that Bert can sit around and crack jokes. I'd share some of them, but this is a family-oriented site.

Let's just say most of them are inspired by the recently resigned governor of a populous state. -- Kieran Mulvaney


Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET -- Pacquiao quotes

A few quotes from a journalist round table with Manny Pacquiao:

"I trained hard this fight because [of what] I saw [in] my performance in my last two fights. It wasn't the hungry Manny Pacquiao [from] when I started boxing. I realize that, and I told myself I need to push myself hard or I'm not Manny Pacquiao, so that's why I trained hard this fight. I came early to Wild Card Gym, and I trained hard."

"When I dropped him three times in the first round [in Pacquiao-Marquez I], I thought that fight was over. But he got up and was fighting; I couldn't believe it. I totally underestimated Marquez in the first fight."

"That [not winning the first fight] is one of the reasons why I trained hard this fight."

"I trained hard for that [first] fight [also]. Actually, in that fight, I was in 100 percent condition. But I was suffering from blisters, and my hand was hurt, that's why I think the fight lasted 12 rounds."

"It's hard to make movies and do some things and also be in boxing. That's why right now I want to focus on my boxing career until I am retired."

"I don't want them to call me the 'Mexican Assassin.' I don't like that one. I'm just a fighter doing my job. I know the Mexican people want Marquez to win on Saturday and also my people want me to win on Saturday. It's just a sport."

"I have a plan to move up in weight to 135, 140. But we'll talk about that after Saturday."


Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET -- Marquez quotes

A few quotes from Juan Manuel Marquez, who sat down with reporters after the final prefight news conference:

"I'm a stronger fighter [than four years ago, when the two men first fought]. I'm a better fighter. Pacquiao has become a better fighter also."

"Hopefully, he has prepared himself very well. I always prepare myself very well for my fights. It seems maybe he is afraid of me, more than he was for [Marco Antonio] Barrera or Erik Morales."

"Manny Pacquiao, he became a better fighter. He knows how to box more. I'm becoming a better fighter; I like to show my power more. I'm modest in the ring; Manny Pacquiao is the wild one in the ring. Now I think I'm going to fight him toe to toe, and Manny, I think, is going to come out to box me."

"I didn't do any special preparation for this fight. I know what type of fighter Manny Pacquiao is. If I have to adjust something, I will adjust it throughout the fight. I want to see what he's showing, so I can make my adjustments."

"After putting on such a great fight in 2004, for the rematch, Bob [Arum] wanted to offer me $100,000 more for the rematch. It was an insult. I decided to go to Indonesia to fight for $40,000 or less because I wanted to. I wanted to show that sometimes money is not the issue. I wanted to prove that my pride is first, and I don't accept anybody to step on me or my pride or insult me with those kinds of offers. Yes, this time I made concessions, but they wanted to avoid me, they didn't want this fight to happen, they started saying Manny was moving to 135 pounds; they put some money on the table, and I accepted."

"In the first fight in 2004, I proved to everybody I could get up from three knockdowns. I'm the same Juan Manuel Marquez. Nothing can stop me from beating Manny Pacquiao."

"I wanted this fight very bad. I've been waiting for it for very long. Now is the time."


Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. ET -- News conference

Pretty enjoyable news conference today. The Foundation Room is a lot more crowded than some of the typical news conference locations, which actually made for a more atmospheric setting. Plenty of Filipino journalists, of course, as well as Mexican ones.

Pacquiao looked strong and solid, and more relaxed and genial than has sometimes been the case. Marquez sat on the dais with his head resting on his hand, either extremely laid back or very bored. Diasdado Gabi, who is fighting Abner Mares in a bantamweight bout on the pay-per-view card, thanked everybody in his halting English and finished by saying "I love boxing" and "thank you" again, which had everybody on his side.

Mares, confident but mild-mannered, smiled his way through his few comments. WBC lightweight champ David Diaz and promoter Bob Arum joked about Diaz's recent goal-scoring exploits at a Chicago Blackhawks game (in the process, Arum showed how little he knows about hockey). And Steven Luevano smiled shyly and promised his co-main event against Terdsak Jandaeng (and I know what you are thinking, but it's pronounced Terzak) will be a great fight. And both Pacquiao and Marquez, as expected, showed class, promising victory while respecting the other man.


Wednesday, 4. p.m. ET -- Behind the velvet rope

My experience with velvet ropes normally is confined to being told I can't cross them -- often followed by mocking laughter. I don't normally get invited to the Foundation Room, either, which is the exclusive lounge area at the very top of the Mandalay Bay. Bert Sugar somehow manages to spend his evenings there, regaling young party-goers with his unique humor while I'm eating Cheez Whiz in my hotel room. But today at least, we're living it up. Because the arena and our usual media room has been taken over by a convention, today's media activies, including the news conference, will be held in the Foundation Room's rarified surroundings with a spectactular view of Las Vegas. It beats being in the basement, although we'll be back in our usual digs tomorrow.


Wednesday, 2:50 p.m. ET -- Fun with armed people in uniform

At London's Charing Cross Station, I was stopped by a pair of police officers who identified themselves as PC 040 and PC 911. "Wait," I said, "you're a cop, and your badge number is 911? That's pretty funny."

PC 911 was seemingly not amused. Apparently, in the U.K., police have powers of random stop-and-search under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, or something, and so there I was, as my train prepared to head away from the platform, being stopped and searched.

"Travel a lot, do you?" asked PC 911 after rummaging through my HBO Sports gym bag.

"Yes," I said. "Too much."

PC 911's face suddenly brightened.

"I thought so," he said. "I search a lot of bags, and that's a very well-packed piece of luggage, if I may say so."

They sent me on my way with a little form, documenting that I had been stopped, searched and found not to be a terrorist.

As I waited for the same bag to emerge from the carousel at the Philadelphia airport about 12 hours later, a TSA security officer asked to see my passport and customs declaration.

Eyeing them suspiciously, he asked me what I do for a living. I told him and mentioned that I was on my way to Las Vegas.

"What fight will you be covering?" he asked, trying (I assumed, in my paranoid way) to trip me up.

"Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao," I said.

"That's this weekend already? Man, that's going to be a great fight. You know, we just had Bernard Hopkins through here the other day; he'd been to England to deal with that boy [Joe] Calzaghe."

If there had been anyone at that particular baggage carousel at Philadelphia International Airport with nefarious plans, it was their lucky day, as the TSA officer and I stood chatting for five minutes or so, him asking me about the latest plans for Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, and how come nobody wants to fight Miguel Cotto.

He gave me back my passport, and I picked up my bag.

"See you at the fights," I said.

"I wish," he replied. "Want to swap jobs?"


Wednesday, 11:20 a.m. ET -- Fight week and jet lag

It's Wednesday morning, it's fight week, and I'm in Las Vegas after a grueling 18 hours or so of travel. I just flew in from London last night, and boy are my arms tired! (Rim shot, please?) Thank you, thank you, you're a wonderful audience. Despite my best efforts, my eyes popped open at 4 a.m. and seem resolutely determined to stay that way, seemingly convinced that I still am in Europe and sleeping in unforgivably late. So I am making use of the extra time the best way I can: filing a blog and planning a trip to the nearby 24/7 pharmacy to buy a new beard trimmer. I'm replacing the one that seems to have died following an unanticipated encounter with a 240-volt outlet at my parents' home in England. I tell you: You might think being a boxing writer is glamorous, but as I sit here unshaven and tired in my motel room, I'm just looking forward to being able to shave. And enjoy a full night's sleep.


Wednesday, 11:15 a.m. -- Woohoo! More blogs!

Hey, what's that sound?

That, my friends, is the sound of Kieran Mulvaney walking into the media center, dusting off his laptop and bringing you another ESPN.com week-of-the-fight blog.

It's fight week in Las Vegas, which means everyone's favorite Greenpeace-environmentalist-turned-boxing-scribe is in town soaking up the action ahead of Juan Manuel Marquez's rematch with Manny Pacquiao at Mandalay Bay. As you might recall, in their first fight four years ago, Marquez overcame a horrendous start and three knockdowns in Round 1 to outbox Pacquiao for the better part of the next 11 rounds.

Whereas most of us mash buttons like incompetent safety inspectors at a nuclear power plant, Kieran's got blogging down to a science. He's been described (self-described, to be exact) as the Floyd Mayweather of the keypad.

Kieran's done extra sets of wrist curls and is well-prepared for the task at hand. He's packed every legal stimulant into his carry-on bag to ensure he doesn't miss a single step in Sin City. From the fighter weigh-ins, to trainer round tables, to the action in the ring (and in the stands), Kieran will be your guide leading up to Saturday's fight.

While you're poking around ESPN's Fight Credential, be sure to stop by the comments page and let Kieran know what he should be on the lookout for while in Vegas.

Without further ado, it's time to kick back and enjoy the lead-up to Marquez-Pacquiao II. -- Darius Ortiz