MACAU - World champion Manny Pacquiao needed two planes to fly in more than 300 friends, family, supporters and constituents from the Philippines this week for his boxing match.
About 30 family and friends of his opponent, Long Island's Chris Algieri, made the trip across the international date line to watch the biggest fight of his career. Pacquiao. China. HBO pay-per-view. WBO welterweight title on the line here this afternoon (Saturday night in New York).
"We're very passionate people, and one of us is probably equal to about 30 Pacquiao fans, so we'll balance it out somewhat,'' said Algieri's friend Stefan Mitchell of Central Islip.
"There's a lot of Pacquiao fans here, but I think we're going to be his equal in supporting Chris,'' added Bobby Van Wyen of Islip.
Mitchell and Van Wyen went to St. Anthony's High School with Algieri. They met in 2002 when Algieri dated Mitchell's sister.
"After they broke up, he and I became close friends,'' said Mitchell, 28. "No ill will at all. I got over it quick.''
When Algieri, 30, made his amateur kickboxing debut, Mitchell was there. When he turned pro, Mitchell was there. When he became a boxer, Mitchell was there. Of Algieri's 40-plus fights, Mitchell said he missed one.
For a time after Algieri beat Ruslan Provodnikov in June at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to introduce himself to the national boxing scene, Mitchell thought his attendance record would begin to slip.
"I told my business partner when Chris starts fighting in places like Vegas and wherever, it will be tough for us to make fights,'' Mitchell said.
And yet, here was Mitchell in a hotel room in Macau, China, 13 time zones west of that school on Wolf Hill Road in South Huntington where they all met.
"As soon as he told us he was fighting in China, there was no delay,'' Mitchell said. "It was immediate. It was like somebody hit a button.''
That somebody was Van Wyen.
"I went on my phone that same day,'' Van Wyen said. "I think I booked everything right on my phone.''
Van Wyen didn't even shop for competitive rates.
"The first one that came up,'' he said. "All of us that are here wouldn't miss it for the world.''
Mitchell and Van Wyen were unsure where their seats would be for the fight, but promised one thing: "You'll hear us.''
Algieri has carried the promotion of his fight with Pacquiao. This week in China, Algieri obliged just about every interview request. Cameras in his face, voice recorders in every direction, swarming media attention while making final preparations for the biggest moment of his career. Through it all, he remained smooth.
"He was always that guy you looked up to,'' Van Wyen said. "Just his demeanor. He was always very calm, but you knew he was a [tough guy] at the end of the day.''