President Barack Obama told Manny Pacquiao during an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday that he plans to watch the Filipino congressman's welterweight title fight against Shane Mosley on May 7 in Las Vegas on pay-per-view. But, don't expect any freebies for the chief White House resident. If the President follows through and orders the fight, he'll have to reach into his pocket and pay the $54.95.
"He's the President of the United States, but he's also a citizen of this country and he'll have to pay for the show," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told Yahoo! Sports afterward, tongue firmly planted (I think) in cheek. "When I do a pay-per-view show, there are no exceptions."
Awareness of the bout increased exponentially Tuesday during the final leg of a cross-country media tour that ended in Washington, D.C. Pacquiao began the day by meeting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and touring the Senate floor.
But the big headline of the day was a traffic accident on his way to the White House. Pacquiao was crossing the street when passing cars slowed, inadvertently causing a multi-car pileup.
According to publicist Fred Sternburg, the traffic accident occurred as Pacquiao was standing at a light on 17th Street, waiting to cross the street to the White House. Traffic was moving slowly and many of the drivers recognized Pacquiao.
Sternburg said drivers began shouting, waving and snapping photos of Pacquiao. In the midst of it, the lead car stopped short and a chain-reaction accident occurred, with three trailing cars piling into each other. No one was hurt, but D.C. police were asking news photographers if any of them had the accident on film. Because they had their cameras on Pacquiao, none of them had a good angle of it.
By his estimation, Pacquiao told Yahoo! Sports that he and his wife, Jinkee, spent 10 minutes with President Obama in the Oval Office. They talked basketball and boxing, Pacquiao said.
"I invited him to my fight [at the MGM Grand], but he said he didn't think he could make it," Pacquiao said. "But he said he would definitely watch the pay-per-view."
The Pacquiaos and Obama posed for pictures and even struck a boxing pose. Jinkee Pacquiao said she was very nervous and didn't speak, but the boxer, widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, chatted up the President.
"It was very impressive being in the Oval Office, and I was surprised by how tall [Obama] is," said the 5-foot-6 boxer, estimating the President to be 6-foot-3.
Obama gave Pacquiao three shopping bags of gifts, including a watch with the presidential seal on it and bags of M&Ms.
Pacquiao began the day by meeting Reid in his office, along with Arum. Arum had Pacquiao campaign for Reid in the final week of Reid's tough reelection battle in November with Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle. Pacquiao took a break from his training in Los Angeles for a fight with Antonio Margarito to fly to Las Vegas and appear at a rally with Reid.
Reid, who was an underdog in the polls, won a tight race.
On Tuesday, Reid welcomed Pacquiao to his office, gave him a tour of the Senate floor, then did a brief press conference at which the men gave each other a flag of their country.
"Everyone knows how much I admire people who get into the ring, whether it's a boxing ring or the political ring," said Reid, a former boxer and a one-time member of the Nevada Athletic Commission. "If that in fact is the case, that I do admire that, then I have great admiration for this man. He's an eight-time world champion. Never in the history of boxing has that been done before.
"What has been so tremendous for the reign of this great champion has been that he has shown you can become a great athlete and still be a great person. He is really exemplary in that regard."
Arum, who didn't accompany Pacquiao to the White House, was bursting with pride and said the fact that two of the most powerful men in the world would take time from their schedules to meet with him shows the significance Pacquiao has gained. He said it was an emotional and very touching day.
"I am humbled to have been a part of it, and it was a spectacular day and a great tribute to Manny," Arum said. "It was a wonderful experience and I'm proud I played a part in promoting Manny the way I have."