Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, and the most memorable boxing entrances

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LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out (Lenticular)

Floyd Mayweather stood prancing in his dressing room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, long after his cue to enter the arena for the fight against Oscar de la Hoya on May 5, 2007. When his handler propped a Mexican sombrero on his head, Mayweather adjusted it with his gloves and walked out stone-faced adorned in a robe with the colors of the Mexican flag, while superstar 50 Cent walked alongside him rapping “Straight to the Bank.” Mayweather then proceeded to make taco meat out of De la Hoya during the fight.

The sombrero was an idea inspired by his uncle, Roger Mayweather, who used it during ring entrances against Mexican fighters in his heyday as a boxer.

“I want to be as original as possible with my ring walks,” Floyd told Wax Poetics recently. “Sometimes I’ll pick up something I’ve seen in the past, like wearing the sombrero for the De la Hoya fight because my Uncle Roger wore one when he fought Julio Cesar Chavez. He used it as a psychological weapon against his opponent. But I always create a special moment that I can remember and so can the fans.”

Manny Pacquiao is a genuinely good-natured person. He laughs hysterically as he watches a video on his cellphone of Drake doing a spot-on imitation of Manny at the ESPY awards ceremony. Drake is singing “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. As Drake, dressed like Manny, turns his “F’s” into “B’s” to replicate Manny’s Filipino accent, he gets Manny’s mannerisms, his accent and his affect down pat.

“You worried about Mayweather?”

“Well, to me, it’s warmer in July, so I’m not really worried about the May weather,” Drake, imitating Manny, answers.

Nothing exemplifies what Manny means to the Philippines more than his ability to straddle many fields: professional singer, boxer and politician, who will be running for president of the Philippines soon. He continues to live in the Philippines in his hometown of General Santos City, South Cotabato, despite the fact that his wealth affords him options to live anywhere. Filipinos have rewarded him with unbridled loyalty. His handlers go so far as to tuck him in at night.

The “singer” part of his professional trifecta has been recently abandoned, amidst criticism of his singing abilities. “I love to sing, but singing doesn’t seem to love me,” he told Wax Poetics in a recent chat about why he stopped recording professionally. But still, his two recorded albums have gone platinum.

Music is very serious in the Philippines. Not following the proper protocol in karaoke in Manny’s country might get you murdered. When Manny winds down from training, he listens to Shakira, he says, because the rhythm of her songs are upbeat. He loves The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Dan Hill, Survivor and church hymns. He told a GQ reporter that he doesn’t feel nervous in the hours leading up to the fight, because he sings—sometimes it’s “La Bamba” or one of his own recorded songs like “Sometimes We Touch.”

Pacquiao recently ended his hiatus away from the music industry to record a personal entrance song and video for the fight of the century on May 2nd. The song, “Lalaban Ako Para sa Filipino” (Translation: “I Am Going to Fight for Filipinos”) recorded with composer Lito Camo includes lyrics about his commitment to the Filipino people.

I am a PINOY. We are PINOY

I will fight the world with my life at stake/I will fight for all Filipinos. 

I will fight for all Filipinos

I will fight for my country

 

“When I enter an arena, I get overwhelmed by the sheer joy of entertaining my fans,” he said.

Jimmy Kimmel attempted to perform Manny’s new entrance song, making fun of him, on his show a few days ago and joked to the audience: “Translated that means, ‘I’m gonna beat Floyd Mayweather’s face in.’ ”

The always affable Manny, after watching Kimmel, recorded a video thanking him for practicing his song.

 

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Like Manny, Floyd Mayweather’s career has been inextricably linked with music. He appeared on the ABC series, Dancing with the Stars in 2007. During training, he listens to hip-hop, soul and funk music. He has had close friendships with music industry insiders and started his own record label. From his partnership and eventual falling out with 50 Cent, to his live ring entrance performances featuring Justin Bieber and Rick Ross, Mayweather, if anything, is unpredictable.

In the November 2003 fight against Phillip N’dou, Mayweather came out in an extravagant coat outlined with fur and letters on his back that spelled “Philthy Rich Records”—Floyd’s Las Vegas–based record label at the time. It was a label that existed for over 10 years with many signed rappers, including Dirt Bomb and Poster Boy, but it never released an album.

The entrance song for the fight against N’dou was 50 Cent’s “Many Men (Wish Death Upon Me).” N’dou, a South African fighter, had been advised by Nelson Mandela to keep “Mayweather on the outside with the jab.” Floyd toyed with N’dou throughout the fight, and it was clear N’dou was outmatched early. Floyd beat him by technical knockout in the seventh round.

“I never know what I am going to do for the entrance until it gets closer to the fight,” Floyd tells me recently. He has used an eclectic variety of songs from “Hector’s Death” from the movie Troy to “Another One Bites the Dust” when he was carried in on a chariot against Arturo Gatti.

“I have oldies, some known favorites and then live entrances with a song by the artist leading me into the ring. I know what my fans like. Whether it’s a ring walk or weigh-in entrance, I can get a great recording artist like Lil’ Wayne, Justin Bieber or Rick Ross to perform, and I know my fans will love that even more.”

 

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Boxing has always brought out ostentatious and bombastic displays from its athletes and their handlers, from Jack Johnson’s expensive cars and clothes and his refusal to keep his hands off white women to Muhammad Ali’s charismatic boasting and rhyming and Bundini Brown’s hype man sensibilities. The sport has brought out some of the most captivating and curious characters in professional sports.

The arena where boxers have always had the chance to display their often outsized personalities is during their boxing entrances. Over the years, the gladiator-style entertainment of the entrances has become more elaborate, sometimes approaching the realm of an onstage concert filled with pyrotechnics, acrobatics, live singing and dancing, and once during one magical moment, a flying carpet. Music has been an instrumental part of the most memorable entrances and has become inextricably linked with the sport.

Equal parts promotional campaigns, egotistical showcases and psychological warfare, boxing entrances have provided some of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport: some intimidating, others ridiculous and hilarious. The evolution of the boxing entrance can only be likened to the evolution of Earth Wind and Fire’s increasingly elaborate and extravagant live performances. In the symbolism of EWF’s pyrotechnic experience, which included levitating guitars and pianos and vanishing Egyptian pyramids, there was always a story. The sweet science of boxing is no different. But the stories are.

“Liston used to be a hoodlum, now he is our cop; he was the big Negro we pay to keep sassy Negroes in line,” Murray Kempton wrote in The New Republic referring to his distaste for then-named Cassius Clay.

This was the conclusion Kempton came to as Ali and Drew Bundini Brown, Ali’s trainer and cornerman, continued to give Liston grief leading up to the fight–going to his house at 3am with a bus emblazoned with a sign that read “Must Go Down in Eight,” while shouting he was gonna “whoop Liston right now!” and telling Liston he resembled a bear. At the weigh-in, he and Bundini yelled over and over: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee AAAAHHH! Rumble young man rumble!” Liston thought they were certifiably crazy. Angry and off kilter, more than likely as a result of their antics, Liston lost to Ali. In a thinking man’s sport, you have to fight smart, not angry.

“It feels like the over the top boxing entrances all started with Ali,” says Sporting News writer David Steele, “Bundini would be walking in front of him and holding up the belt and he would be surrounded by handlers. It was a big long procession; a spectacle. By the Ali-Frazier fight every inch of the ring was packed with people. At the Ali-Foreman fight there was the shouts of ‘Ali, boma ye!” (Translation: Ali, kill him!)

At the Ali-Foreman fight, Ali walked from the locker room through a procession of soldiers donning rifles. The band played as the audience chanted, “Ali, boma ye!” Prior to the fight, there was a three-night-long music festival. Singer Lloyd Price was in charge of the festival which included performances by James Brown, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, the Crusaders, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, the Spinners, Celia Cruz, and the Fania All-Stars.

Seven years after losing his boxing license after the U.S. government accused him of draft dodging for his refusal to fight in Vietnam, Ali became the heavyweight champion of the world that night.

“The Rumble in the Jungle was a fight that made the whole country more conscious,” Ali wrote.

As the years progressed, the entrance became the show piece for the personality of the fighter. By the ’90s, Mike Tyson changed the game completely.

“I can’t think of anyone before Tyson who had music blaring through the speakers as they entered the arena,” says Steele. “I remember everything he did felt different. And I remember the music just thumping.”

Mike Tyson began his career boxing when boxing still premiered on the Wide World of Sports. Then his fights began to appear on Pay-Per-View on cable television. That’s when things changed as the price of watching the fights went up. The fight—from beginning to end—became a real event.

As intimidating as Mike Tyson was physically, there was always something about him that inspired the need to protect him, mostly from himself. After converting to Islam during his prison time for rape, he donned a kufi, a universal symbol of peace and renewal, as he walked through the entryway towards the fight with Francois Botha. It was 1999, and the last time fans remembered Tyson in the ring he had been head butted repeatedly by Evander Holyfield and, in turn, bitten Holyfield’s ear like it was a Hostess cupcake.

It was perhaps the most bizarre moment in any sport ever. For the general public, Tyson had become an oddity, the Bigger Thomas of the sports world; alternately captivating and repulsive. For people in his old neighborhoods in Bed-Stuy and Brownsville, and for his trainer, Cus D’Amato, a man that genuinely loved him, Tyson represented a way for the ridiculed, feared, and disregarded to authentically enter the mainstream.

As Tyson made his entrance against Botha, he wore a T-shirt that read, “Be Real.” He walked out to the intro of DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. DMX’s debut album was filled with lyrics of a wildly violent and dysfunctional life of survival. The boxing announcer spoke over the music and sounding obliviously naive, he said, “Mike Tyson is entering to some scary and imposing music.”

The entrance song could be the soundtrack to a boxer’s personality or who he thinks he can be. Tyson was hoping for redemption. From two painful losses to Holyfield. From the demons that led him to prison and a boxing ban. He would get his redemption in the ring that night, back then the only way he knew how, by knocking Botha out.

 

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In the world of boxing entrances, there are three fighters that stand out in Grace Jones-style flair: Jorge “Maromero” Paez, Naseem Hamed and Wladimir Klitschko. Paez, a circus performer from the Baja in Mexico was skilled in showmanship. He would wear insane outfits for his entrances; a Batman outfit; and once a wedding gown in the ring. He traveled with a hairdresser that would style his hair in a Mohawk, once carved in concentric circles. He would often enter to Michael Jackson—“Billie Jean” or “Thriller”—and then breakdance. “Paez was really the first one of these guys that was charisma redefined,” said Marc Gerald, a literary agent and a good friend of Paez. “He did it differently because he did it from the heart. He didn’t do it just to attract eyeballs.”

Wladimir’s camp works tirelessly to outdo each of his entrance performances. In the match between Wladimir Klitchsko and Odlanier Solis, Wladimir walked up a spiral staircase with a hooded gold robe and rang a bell tower at the top of the stairs as “Hells Bells” by AC/DC played. Wladimir fought once in a closed roof soccer stadium in Germany with 60,000 fans with fireworks going off under the roof.

But Prince Naseem Hamed was the showman of all showmen. In a fight in 2000 against Augie Sanchez, he came out to Black Rob’s “Whoa”. He came out of a cutout of himself and began to dance while fire shot from various places around the stage. In April 1999, versus Paul Ingle, he came out to the R&B hit, “Love Like This” by Faith Evans, but there wasn’t one of him, close your eyes, and then one, then two, then three images of the prince appeared dancing under the spotlight. But that wasn’t the real entrance, he announced to the crowd, before he appeared in a retro convertible to Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Prince Naseem’s most grand entrance would be versus Vuyani Bungu, his last big production, he entered sitting on a flying tiger-skin magic carpet which soared over the crowd. He stepped off to walk with P. Diddy to the ring and did a flip into the ring. There hasn’t been a boxer since that can match the entertainment value of the Prince’s productions.

 

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Boxers and music industry folks have often been linked: think James Brown or Berry Gordy who both started their careers as boxers, and Al Haymon, a former music promoter for artists like Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and New Edition. Haymon now serves as the adviser and manager for Floyd Mayweather.

Professional boxing has taken the lead as other major sports have picked up on using music to hype the crowd. Baseball players choose their theme music that plays through the loudspeakers as they step up to the plate. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has a piece of the boxing pie with throne boxing (a hybrid event of fights and live music) on Fox Sports, with a deejay and a marquee musical artist performing between bouts. Al Haymon’s new boxing series, Premiere Boxing Champions (PBC), on NBC is looking to revolutionize the sport through music, while bringing it back to the mainstream on network television. Celebrated film composer Hans Zimmer was brought in for the show to create ring walk music just for the PBC series. It’s the first time that boxing, like UFC, has its own soundtrack.

On the second episode which premiered April 2, veteran sports commentators Bob Costas and Al Michaels are talking over the instrumental version of Migos’ hip-hop song, “Fight Night” before they’re joined by Marv Albert. Boxer Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin comes out in just a robe with the hood over his head to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” followed by his opponent, Andy Lee who comes out to Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker.” They both come out alone and understated, in an attempt it seems to class up boxing. It’s a reminder of simpler times and black-and-white television broadcasts on Wide World of Sports.

They are no entourages, no pyrotechnics, and fire blazing.

Just the music and the fighter—each representing the other.

 

Five Hype Boxing Entrances:

Because Chris Eubanks showmanship when he vaults over the top rope can only be matched by Naseem Hamed’s front flip over the ropes. There’s a reason why his theme song for every match is Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”

 

Ray Close vs. Chris Eubanks

 

Both fighters give a full concert: LL Cool J rapping live and Jimi Jameson singing. Even Jamie Foxx got in the mix.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley

 

Because no one is close enough to Roy Jones to tell him rapping doesn’t mean just make something rhyme.

 

Roy Jones vs. Clinton Woods

 

Katsidis’s gladiator outfit can only be matched in intimidation by B-Hop’s executioner mask.

 

Michael Katsidis vs. Kevin Mitchell

 

Hopkins says he got his executioner moniker from winning twenty-one fights in two years, twelve in the first round. There’s nothing more ominous than seeing his executioner’s mask as he comes out with Freeway rapping live .

 

Bernard Hopkins vs. Kelly Pavlik

 

Boxers on their ring walks:

Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero  – Former Four-division World Champion: “”When I walk out to the ring, I like to come out to songs that motivate me (Kid Rock). It usually has a nice beat to get my blood pumping. Sometimes I come out to Spanish music (Tigres De Norte) for my Mexican fans. When I’m in the gym I like to listen to a variety of different music but mostly old school funk or country.”

Lamont Peterson – Super Lightweight Champion : “Ring walk music isn’t something that has mattered to me like it matters to other fighters. Fighters put so much effort into it and I’m so focused going into that ring, that it is all I see or hear.  But, I love a wide variety of music and listen to it when I train. Anything from Drake to old school R&B. It depends on my mood and my workout.”

Danny Garcia  – Unified Super Lightweight Champion: “When I walk into the ring I like a current hip hop song that’s hot, not any particular one, just one that’s hot on fight night. I’ve had a lot of great artists walk me out to the ring. Jadakiss last time I fought, Daddy Yankee in Puerto Rico and Meek Mill has the Philly connection. My sister has sang the national anthem at my fights, so music is very important to my family.”

Bernard Hopkins – Future International Boxing Hall of Fame Member: “The ring walk music has transformed Bernard Hopkins into who I am today. I use the same mentality for my music that I do for my life, you can see that in the song choices. ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra comes across arrogant, but people don’t know the struggle, they don’t want to hear the drama. My nickname ‘The Executioner’ served its purpose and as I got older and was reminded of my age I wanted to reinvent myself; that was part of the fun. You have to think about, how do you want to showcase yourself? How do you want to market yourself? That’s why I’ve been able to reinvent myself.”

Shawn Porter – Former Welterweight World Champion: “Personal ring walk music makes me feel good. In the past, I’ve walked out to gospel music. It’s motivational and inspiration, not only to me but also to the fans watching. If I had it my way, I would continue to walk out to my own music. However, not entering the ring to my music for my last fight on Spike didn’t bother me.”

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