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Apprehensive Pacquiao fans cheer their Manny

A North Hollywood family gathers for a traditional Pacquiao Fight Night which it has followed for the last 10 years. Photo by Tet Valdez.

A tense moment. Photos by TetBee Photographers.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, California — More than a few of the fans in the Pacquiao fight party in one Southern California household noticed a change in the fighter’s demeanor, which revealed a deviation from his normal upbeat walk to the ring.

Vergel Ochoa, a retired AT&T employee whose two grownup children opted this year to watch the fight with cousins at a hotel in Las Vegas, observed that the camera caught Manny Pacquiao in an unusually introspective few seconds as he walked through the tunnel going to the ring.

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“But that was just momentary because Manny flashed his trademark smile as soon he became aware of the lights and the TV camera rolling around him.”

Unlike the many fights Pacquiao fans have followed over more than a decade, this re-match between Pacquiao and Tim Bradley was met with guarded excitement in Ochoa’s North Hollywood household.

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Most likely, it was the same apprehension hovering at the countless Pacquiao fight viewing parties in the Filipino community all over the United States.

“Still he looks more like going to a reception party than going to battle,” laughed his brother Philip from Porter Ranch, California, who considers the Pacquiao fights as sort of aregular reunion with his relatives.

In this match, Pacquiao was trying hard, but somehow longtime fans usually see how easy it was for him to carry the fight to his opponent.  “We are happy and we didn’t doubt he would win, but he’s not in the same performance that we saw in the last ten years,” Philip said.

Dinner before the fight (left to right) Evangeline Rodriguez, Vergel Ochoa,Philip, the author, Dante,Beck Bermejo, Edna Valdez, Tet Valdez.

“Our kids grew up learning from us about Manny Pacquiao and somehow his popularity in the sports world brought in them a sense of cultural identity,” said Edna Ochoa from Winnetka as she prepared to join her siblings for dinner over the HBO re-match.

She’s not a boxing fan but succumbs to the call of family on these occasions. “He almost always gives me a heart attack every fight, especially after his knockout two years ago,” the former Hollywood executive said.

“We’re more apprehensive now.”

That Bradley’s combinations hit their target less often allayed the fans’ anxiety as the night grew into the 12th round, when the opponent landed jabs more often than before.

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“Bradley has never been accepted to be better than Pacquiao despite his previous win,” said Dante Ochoa, who has hosted most of the HBO fights during the last 10 years. His three sons are devoted to the Saranggani fighter.

The fans in this household were more accepting of the reality that the years are now catching up with their idol.  Almost all agreed with Manny’s wife Jinkee, that it’s now time for Pacquiao to retire.

Bradley would have been no match for Manny five years ago.  But everyone in the room agrees Manny just battled with a guy five years younger and hungrier.

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TAGS: Fans, North Hollywood fight fans, Pacquiao-Bradley fight, prefight dinner
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