Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will wake up early on Sunday morning in Macau, China. They will brush their teeth, have a light breakfast and then head to work. They will arrive at the arena at about 10 a.m. local time. When they begin the walk to the ring, it will be around noon. When the bell rings, it will be . . . late Saturday night in the United States.
Broadcasting a fight of this magnitude from China, across six time zones, is far from an ordinary production.
"At HBO, our first issue is always the show that's delivered to our consumers," said Mark Taffet, senior vice president of HBO Sports. "Once Bob Arum assured us that he would start the card on Sunday morning in Macau, we knew we would be able to deliver it to the pay-per-view audience on Saturday night. But we also needed to make sure that the technical aspects were up to quality standards, that our talent team could be there live to broadcast in the same manner that the pay-per-view audience in the United States expects."
To prepare for the Pacquiao-Rios pay-per-view fight on Saturday night, HBO televised a pair of cards from Macau over the last seven months. Both fights aired on HBO2 and featured China's two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming.
"Those shows were test runs for HBO," said Taffet. "We were able to accomplish everything that would be needed to provide a quality broadcast."
Many major fights have taken place at foreign venues over the years. Buster Douglas' epic knockout of Mike Tyson was televised live by HBO from Japan. Hasim Rahman upset Lennox Lewis on an HBO broadcast from South Africa. And two of Muhammad Ali's biggest wins were overseas. He knocked out George Foreman in Zaire and stopped Joe Frazier in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
"The one fight that sticks out and is most comparable because it takes place in the same time zone is the 'Thrilla in Manila' when Muhammad Ali faced off against Joe Frazier," said Arum, who was involved in that promotion and will promote the Pacquiao-Rios fight. "It was one of the greatest fights I have ever seen in my life. What I remember most was going outside the Coliseum after the fight was over - we had just seen this unbelievable fight and the sun was the brightest that I have ever seen it and it was almost as if everyone was blinded by the daylight and it was one of the most memorable experiences I ever had in my life."
The complete fight-week timeline for the fighters has been modified to accommodate U.S. media coverage. Conference calls and media workouts were re-scheduled to ensure maximum exposure here. The weigh-in will be televised live on Saturday morning so fans here can see it Friday night, the usual television slot for big-fight weigh-ins.
"The fighters understand they are fighting on pay-per-view and that the lion's share of the revenue will come from the U.S. pay-per-view market, so they have been extremely accommodating," said Taffet. "They've been great. They've been very flexible. We've asked them to modify their schedules so that they would be available for the media and it hasn't been a problem."
While Rios arrived in China two weeks ago, Pacquiao may have an advantage in that he has spent his entire training camp in the Philippines. It's the same time zone as Macau.
"We don't have to worry about the time change," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach. "We get up early in the morning and we are running, then we train in the afternoon. We are getting him used to having two meals before the fight and I think that's a big factor, as long as he gets those two meals in him it shouldn't be too much of a problem. We'll be ready to fight."
Robert Garcia, Rios' trainer, doesn't anticipate a problem for his fighter.
"The fact that we are fighting in the morning, it is different and we have never done that," he said. "It's not only different for us but for everyone on the card. One thing about Brandon is that he always trains at that time anyway. He is always at the gym at 11 and by noon he is already sparring and doing his work. So that is already something we do, so it could benefit us."