Monday, March 15, 2010

Philippines celebrates Pacquiao triumph

MANILA — Filipinos rejoiced Sunday at boxing hero Manny Pacquiao's victory in the United States after the country's electricity provider pulled out all the stops to ensure people could watch the fight.

Live coverage of the 12-round fight between Pacquiao and Ghana's Joshua Clottey went without a hitch after Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes warned: "If people don't get to watch Manny Pacquiao, it's big trouble. That is a national catastrophe."

In the weeks ahead, Manila and the southern Philippines had suffered daily power outages.

As in previous Pacquiao fights, the streets were empty as millions of fans were glued to television sets and radios. Police reported a "zero crime rate" -- a phenomenon seen during previous Pacquiao fights, when even hardened criminals and guerrillas followed the event.

Pacquiao easily defeated Clottey by a unanimous decision to retain his World Boxing Organization welterweight title at the Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

"I owe this to all my fellow Filipinos, most of all to my family," he told DZBB radio afterwards.

Pacquiao now faces a different sort of challenge, one that could prove even tougher: he is running for a seat in the Philippine Congress at May elections, seeking to represent a district on the southern island of Mindanao. Despite his popularity, Pacquiao lost his first Congressional bid in 2007 and again faces a firmly entrenched opponent.

President Gloria Arroyo joined in celebrations, saying: "The nation again rejoices with and congratulates the people's champion, Manny Pacquiao, in forging another victory for the Philippines."

"With unity and hard work, Manny has again triumphed for his country."

Commenting on the absence of crime during the fight, police spokesman Superintendent Rommel Miranda said: "This really shows that the whole nation was united."

For many observers, the only remaining foe left for the champion is the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather who, like Pacquiao, has been tagged by some pundits as the "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world".

"The world wants to see Manny and Floyd -- no doubt about it," said Boyet Sison, host of popular talk radio show "Hardball", adding that this would be the perfect way for Pacquiao to cap his career.

Pacquiao and Mayweather were expected to fight on March 13 but negotiations unravelled over the American's demands for unprecedented pre-fight blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

Asked in a post-fight interview by GMA television about the possibility of facing Mayweather, Pacquiao said: "First he has to win in May."

He referred to Mayweather's May 1 bout against Shane Mosley, which was scheduled after talks on a fight with Pacquiao collapsed.

The champion's mother, Dionisia Pacquiao, however, said she would prefer her son to retire right away.

"I tell my son 'Please stop. What happens if something goes wrong with your body?' I prayed to God that nothing happens to him," she told DZBB.

She brushed aside talk about a big-money match with Mayweather, saying: "Why should we try to chase after the biggest prize? We have enough. God has given him enough blessings already."

Asked about his mother's comments, Pacquiao said: "We will talk about that after I get home."

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