- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Training camp for a fight is, of course, a grueling endeavor, even more difficult sometimes than the fight itself.
But when you are involved in a Manny Pacquiao fight in Macau, China, the media tour is also a Herculean undertaking. It is an exhausting trek across the world.
Pacquiao will be fighting at the Venetian Macao's Cotai Arena in Macau for the second time on Nov. 22 when he defends his welterweight world title against junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri. It's a fight that needs every bit of hype it can get to sell the uninspiring HBO PPV matchup.
To that end, Pacquiao, Algieri and their teams are in the midst of a media tour that is taking the group 27,273 miles over 12 days to six cities in two countries as they try to drum up interest in the fight.
It began on Aug. 25 with a news conference in at the Venetian Macao, so first came the trip just for everyone to get there. Then it was off to Shanghai the following day before the long trip back to the United States for a stop in San Francisco on Aug. 29 -- a day filled with activities and interviews and appearances -- before a quick flight to Las Vegas for a private event at the Venetian resort there. Then it was off to Los Angeles the next day to shoot the pay-per-view commercial and for Wednesday's news conference.
Then everyone will head for New York for another news conference -- and even more appearances -- on Thursday. The tour will finally conclude Thursday afternoon with Pacquiao and Algieri ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 4.
While Algieri will already be at home at that point, since he lives on Long Island, Pacquiao will turn around and fly home to the Philippines for yet another long trip.
Pacquiao is used to the crazy travel after all these years of going back and forth between the Philippines and Los Angeles, not to mention U.S.-based media tours for all of his fights.
"It's a long, long trip, but I'm enjoying it," Pacquiao told ESPN.com after arriving in San Francisco. "It's tiring, but I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting the people. To adjust to all of those time zones, that is hard. When we arrived, I didn't sleep, so that was very hard."
Indeed, Pacquiao publicist Fred Sternburg had to reschedule the interview a day later than planned because Pacquiao had finally gotten to sleep, and he wasn't about to wake him. (Understood, Fred. Don't sweat it.)
"I'm OK. I'm not complaining to Fred," Pacquiao said, when asked about his long slumber after the long trip. And then he joked (I think he was joking), "Today's Thursday, right?"
Pacquiao understands that doing these tours are part of his job to sell the fight. It's not just meeting media; it's doing events like ringing the closing bell, throwing out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, being introduced at a San Francisco Giants game, meeting with editors at the San Francisco Chronicle and appearing with Algieri for interviews on local TV and radio programs.
Algieri said he traveled a lot as a kid and was very excited to do the tour.
"This is a great experience," Algieri said. "It's been fun. This trip [to Macau] was fun. The trip was great. It gave me an idea of what it will be like when I have to go back there for the fight. I took a lot of mental notes to help prepare me for November and the experience of having to travel a long distance for the fight. I feel great."
Algieri felt great because after arriving in San Francisco from Macau, he said he slept for 12 hours.
"I cannot believe how much I slept," he said. "I woke up and checked my phone and I had like 20 missed calls. This is the biggest fight of my life, and I embrace that. The tour is part of it, and I am trying to enjoy every minute of it. This is where I belong and I relish this major stage of the sport. I am taking it all in."
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, is a veteran of these tours. He has done them numerous times, including the one for Pacquiao's fight in China against Brandon Rios last year -- which was similar in scope to this tour -- and for all of Pacquiao's U.S. fights. When Roach trained Oscar De La Hoya, he was with him throughout an 11-city tour in eight days to promote the 2007 megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
"The tours are difficult, but this one is a little crazy. It really is," Roach said. "The jet lag, the time zones, all the stuff they have us doing, it's tiring, but it's also fun and I know it's important."
Roach's travel travails entail more than just the tour for Pacquiao-Algieri.
He will miss the final day of the tour because he is heading to Laredo, Texas, where one of his fighters, 2012 Russian Olympic gold medalist Egor Mekhontsev, has a fight on Saturday night.
"After Texas, I will go home [to Los Angeles] for two days, wash my clothes and then go the Philippines for [Pacquiao's] training camp," Roach said.
But Roach will then miss six days of the early part of Pacquiao's training camp because he will jet off to Moscow to be with another one of his fighters, cruiserweight titlist Denis Lebedev, who has a defense there against Pawel Kolodziej on Sept. 27 after spending the past two months training with Roach at his Wild Card gym in Hollywood, California.
"I learned how to sleep on planes because I had to," Roach said. "I'm having fun doing it. I'm not complaining. It's my job. But it is crazy. I sleep when I can. I have to. I have a lot of big fights coming up."
There is always another fight. And always another flight.
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