For sheer happy weirdness, nothing quite rivals the surreal encounters that occur at a major boxing match. Saturday night, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as Manny Pacquiao readied himself in a dressing room for his fourth mega-fight with legendary Mexican foe Juan Manuel Marquez, Mitt Romney appeared. A guest of the Nevada Athletic Commission, Romney had dropped by to wish the Filipino superstar good luck.
A seated Pacquiao was having his hands taped in preparation for putting on his boxing gloves. An aide casually introduced him to Romney, who expanded on the introduction: “Hi, Manny. I ran for president and lost.”
The dressing room “exploded in laughter,” longtime Pacquiao publicist Fred Sternburg said in an e-mail Sunday morning.
Pacquiao replied that it was nice to meet Romney, Sternburg added.
For the non-boxing fan, it is often a shock to discover a fighter willing to meet a stranger shortly before stepping into the ring. Politicians, for instance, typically wall themselves off in the final hours of preparation before critical debates or convention speeches. But great boxers are generally accustomed to granting audiences in the last hours before a fight; it is one of those gladiator rituals that bespeaks a fighter’s composure and confidence. A fighter’s dressing room regularly serves as the American intersection between celebrity, sports and politics.