The punch that knocked out national boxing hero Manny Pacquiao left the Philippines shocked.
From the highest corners of government to the man in the street, Pacquiao’s defeat dampened spirits already weighed down in a country dealing with a killer typhoon that left more than 1,000 dead or missing last week.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan summed up the national sentiment. “It hurts,” he said. “This is a painful defeat felt throughout the nation.”
But he said Pacquiao was still and would “always be our nation’s greatest boxing champion. This painful defeat does not lessen in anyway what he has achieved as a boxer, as a Filipino and as a human being. We will always hold him in highest esteem.”
In General Santos City, Pacquiao’s hometown, where the fight was broadcast live in several public stadiums, shocked viewers reacted with stunned silence after their fighter fell in the sixth round before a 16,000-strong crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We were all silent because we were unsure what happened. He was unconscious for so long,” said businessman Jun Bayonico, 51, who watched the fight live with friends and relatives.
“For so many years, he was our idol. We were saddened by what happened, but maybe this is a sign he should retire. It would have been better if he retired a winner,” he added.
In Quezon City, people strode out of cinemas at Eastwood Mall in Libis, looking like they had been seeing a sad movie.
Before joining what seemed like a funeral procession, the crowd stayed for some 30 minutes after the sixth round. Unable to accept that their hero had been defeated, they sat there, waiting for word from Pacquiao himself.
The 39-year-old Juan Miguel “El Dinamita” Marquez of Mexico sent down Pacquiao, 33, face first to the canvas with a right hand with one second left of the round to win their welterweight fight—their fourth meeting—on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The end came too soon, unexpected, a group from Laguna told the Inquirer.
“What happened?” one from the group said, apparently trying to understand what had just happened.
Aquino missed it
After Pacquiao regained consciousness, the crowd heaved a sigh of relief. That was their only consolation, seeing their idol valiantly standing up after being knocked out cold, they said.
President Aquino missed the fight because he was attending to the search for people still missing five days after Typhoon “Pablo” struck Mindanao, Central Visayas and Palawan.
But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that despite the defeat, the country would not turn its back on the superstar fighter, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
“Nothing will change. The people of the Philippines will continue to support Manny. We join them in praying for the return of his strength and determination,” Lacierda said in a statement.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas shared many Filipinos’ sentiments. “It’s heartbreaking, and as a sportsman, I share the sadness of every Filipino.”
But Pacquiao, he said, is “still our champion. We’re proud that we have Manny.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay also quickly declared his confidence that Pacquiao, who has parlayed his boxing championships into a show biz career and election to the House of Representatives, would surely make a comeback.
“I am certain that Manny will rise from this adversity a better and stronger person,” Binay said in a statement.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said that even in defeat, Pacquiao was still an inspiration to Filipinos.
“He is still the people’s champ and just as he has always been the symbol of Filipino resiliency, I am certain he can rise above this setback and still inspire our own people, especially those in the south who are slowly picking themselves up after the very recent devastation brought on by Typhoon Pablo,” Belmonte said.
Members of the House of Representatives defended their fallen colleague, saying Marquez just got in a “lucky punch.”
“A lucky punch by Juan Manuel Marquez during the dying seconds of the sixth round when the Filipino boxing icon was leading on the judges’ scorecards cannot obliterate the illustrious boxing career of Manny Pacquiao,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement.
Cibac Rep. Sherwin Tugna said Marquez defeated Pacquiao through a combination of “preparation and luck.”
But Pacquiao need not retire because he got knocked out, he said.
“He just needs to focus solely on public service and boxing,” he said.
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who watched the fight at San Andres Sports Complex, said the Manila city government would continue supporting Pacquiao despite the defeat.
“He had given honor not just himself and his family but also to our country,” Lim said. “He needs to rest. I guess there will be a fifth fight because it was a lucky punch.”
In Navotas City, some people who watched the fight in the city’s sports complex felt Pacquiao was cheated because Marquez threw the punch in the final second of the round.
“That felt quite wrong. It was already the final second of the round and Marquez managed to sneak a full punch in,” one protested, speaking in Filipino.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, in a posting on Facebook, said it was “probably the last fight [of Pacquiao that the people of the province] will see him.” And then something intriguing: “Goodbye Pacman 2016.”—Reports from Michael Lim Ubac, TJ Burgonio, Leila Salaverria, Nathaniel R. Melican, Christine O. Avendaño, Erika Sauler in Manila; Delfin Mallari Jr., Juan Escandor, Maricar Cinco, Madonna Virola and Romulo Ponte, Inquirer Southern Luzon and AFP