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Arum expects sell-out in Brisbane

WBO welterweight champion and Sen. Manny Pacquiao meets PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa before the San Miguel Beer-Mahindra game at the Cuneta Astrodome last Wednesday.

MANILA, Philippines - Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said yesterday he expects “a complete sell-out of 55,000” for WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao’s title defense against unbeaten challenger Jeff Horn at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on July 2 with the fight tipped to eclipse the Australian attendance record of 38,000 set for the Azumah Nelson-Jeff Fenech bout in Melbourne in 1992.

“The Aussies tell me that the excitement is at a fever pitch,” Arum told The STAR. Corporate box tickets went on sale at the equivalent of P18,500 each yesterday. A batch of 6,000 general admission tickets will hit the market at the equivalent of P1,500 apiece on Wednesday. About 27,000 tickets are allocated for less than the equivalent of P3,700. The fight is billed as the “Battle of Brisbane.”

It isn’t clear what is Pacquiao’s guarantee for the fight, his first defense since regaining the WBO crown from Jessie Vargas last November. Horn’s backers initially offered a purse of $5 Million later raised to $7 Million. A recent report by writer Grantlee Kieza in the Brisbane newspaper Courier Mail claimed that Pacquiao will “likely” earn more than $10 Million from the fight sponsored by the Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council.

Pacquiao is booked to leave Manila for Australia on Sunday. Arum said the promotional tour will begin in Brisbane on Monday to include stops in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Pacquiao was at the Cuneta Astrodome and sat on the Mahindra bench during the Floodbuster’s 109-80 loss to San Miguel Beer last Wednesday. Before the game, Pacquiao met with PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa in the PBA lounge room. 

Narvasa said Pacquiao invited him to watch the fight in Brisbane. “Sen. Manny dropped by just to say hello,” said Narvasa. “True to his generous nature, he invited me to watch his forthcoming fight. He told me he likes the way the PBA is now. After that, he left. I felt that he knocked me out without even throwing a punch. He’s really quite a guy, hard to believe. I approached him on the bench before the game and told him about our Batang PBA program and sought his support. He told me in any way that he can help, he will and that’s even without him knowing about the whole program. He actually made my day.” 

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The plan is for Pacquiao to kick off his training in Manila on May 1. The Senate reconvenes from recess the next day and Pacquiao is expected to work out at the Elorde Gym Five E-Com Center in the SM Mall of Asia complex at night just like he did in preparing for Vargas. Trainer Freddie Roach will be in London to work former WBA superbantamweight champion Scott Quigg’s corner for the fight against Romania’s Viorel Simion at Wembley Stadium on Saturday then returns to Los Angeles before flying out to supervise Pacquiao’s workouts in Manila. Pacquiao will train six weeks in Manila and two in Brisbane to complete two months of camp for Horn. 

Roach’s chief assistant Marvin Somodio said he won’t make the trip to Manila or Brisbane. He’ll stay in Los Angeles to work with undefeated superlightweight Jose Ramirez who has a fight in Reno on May 5 and Miguel Cotto who’s set to resume training after his Feb. 25 fight was cancelled when opponent James Kirkland backed out with an injury.

If the Suncorp Stadium is filled to capacity for the “Battle of Brisbane,” it will be the biggest audience for Pacquiao ever. The largest attendance for a Pacquiao bout was 50,994 when he outpointed Ghana’s Joshua Clottey at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas in March 2010. In November that same year, a crowd of 40,154 came for Pacquiao’s win over Antonio Margarito at the same venue.

The largest attendance in an indoor stadium for boxing was 63,315 for Muhammad Ali’s rematch with Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome in 1978. Julio Cesar Chavez’ draw with Pernell Whitaker drew 58,891 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio in 1993. Pacquiao’s fight against Horn could set a new record in this millennium.

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