Last year, when Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. went barnstorming across the country on the media tour promoting their long-awaited fight, which ultimately broke every revenue record in boxing history, the fans and media turned out in droves.
Day after day, in city after city, boxing fans and press packed the interesting locations picked out for each press conference to see the fighters and to listen to them talk up the big fight.
The stops were more like giant pep rallies than boring press conferences. Trust me, I was at the Washington, D.C., stop at Union Station, the train depot in the heart of the city, and I have been to a lot of boring news conferences. That tour was like nothing I have ever seen.
Now, De La Hoya is taking to the road again, but this time with Manny Pacquiao, as they gear up to promote their Dec. 6 welterweight showdown at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, a match appropriately dubbed "The Dream Fight." It must be a dream fight -- it sold out in minutes Tuesday to the tune of nearly $17 million in ticket sales, the second-biggest gate ever behind De La Hoya-Mayweather.
The De La Hoya-Pacquiao tour won't be as long or include as many cities as the one for De La Hoya-Mayweather, but each stop ought to generate similarly fabulous buzz and fun.
They'll kick off the six-city tour Wednesday at the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York's harbor. How cool is that?
Tour manager Kelly Swanson of Swanson Communications, who also spearheaded the De La Hoya-Mayweather tour and the just-concluded Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones tour, among others, worked tirelessly to gain approval for the use of Liberty Island for the news conference, an idea Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, a Swiss immigrant, wanted to explore for the past few years.
Swanson had originally done a site survey and gotten approval to have a news conference there during a media tour for De La Hoya's September rematch with Mayweather, but that tour and fight never happened because Mayweather retired.
When De La Hoya-Pacquiao materialized, Swanson was prepared. The result will be the first-ever news conference at the famous statue that symbolizes freedom and democracy.
"We are delighted to be hosting this event on Liberty Island," said Brad Hill, who is the president of Evelyn Hill, the concessionaire to the National Park Service. "This event is unlike anything we have ever done. By virtue of their great successes, Mexican-American Oscar De La Hoya and Filipino Manny Pacquiao embody what the Statue of Liberty represents. We are working hard to ensure that this is not only a memorable day for the fighters and their camps, but everyone who attends."
Sure, they are promoting a fight, but the Statue of Liberty and its meaning does resonate with both fighters.
"Having the opportunity to announce the fight at the Statue of Liberty is like a dream come true for me," De La Hoya said. "As the son of immigrants and a very proud Mexican-American, I believe the Statue of Liberty is the United States' greatest symbol of freedom and opportunity. I take great pride in what I have been able to accomplish as the son of immigrants and see myself as a true testament to the notion that with opportunity, hard work and determination anyone can realize their dreams."
Although Pacquiao is not a U.S. citizen, he has made his career in the U.S., earning millions here for his fights.
"Although I am from the Philippines, the United States has given me the greatest opportunity to advance my career and financial security for my family and I," he said. "Many Filipinos and some of my family members live in the United States, and the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the great opportunities offered by the United States to the rest of the world."
In addition to the kickoff at the Statue of Liberty, the tour will roll on. Here is the complete schedule (all times local):
• Wednesday, Oct. 1: New York, Statue of Liberty, open to the public (noon).
• Thursday, Oct. 2: Chicago, Sears Tower, media only (noon).
• Friday, Oct. 3: Houston, Space Center, media only (11 a.m.)
• Friday, Oct. 3: San Antonio, The Alamo, open to the public (3 p.m.)
• Saturday: Oct. 4: San Francisco, Golden Gate Park Recreation Area, open to the public (noon).
• Tuesday, Oct. 7: Los Angeles, Whittier Boulevard Arch, open to the public (noon).
If this tour is anything like the one for De La Hoya-Mayweather, and you live in one of the cities where the event is open to the public, take a long lunch break and go check it out. It should be great fun. And it's free.