Pacquiao victory unites nation anew
Millions of boxing fans across the Philippines erupted in cheers on Sunday after their idol Manny Pacquiao beat Argentine Lucas Matthysse in a world title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In the run-up to the fight, the 39-year-old Pacquiao was trailed by whispers that he was past his prime and doubts he would be able to best the big-punching Matthysse, who is four years his junior.
But when Pacquiao’s victory was sealed in the seventh round by technical knockout, fans around the nation of more than 100 million jumped to their feet and roared with joy.
“Even at the age of 39, Pacquiao showed he still has a lot of power and speed left in him. I am excited for a Pacquiao-Lomachenko match,” said athlete Fiel Mamon.
He was referring to Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomachenko, the current World Boxing Organization lightweight champion who is being touted as Pacquiao’s next opponent.
Mamon said he had been expecting the match to go the distance and settled through the scorecards, but was surprised at the seventh-round knockout.
“With this result, I can say that Pacquiao can have another one or two matches more before retiring for good,” he said.
But President Rodrigo Duterte, who watched the fight from ringside at Axieta Arena in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said he preferred to see Pacquiao retire.
“I said he’s 39. Not because he cannot win or lose, but I’d like to see my friend rest on his laurels at this time and enjoy life,” the President said.
“He has so much money already, no problem,” he added.
Then, in a statement, the President congratulated Pacquiao for uniting Filipinos once more with his victory, adding that this latest conquest would cement the boxing champ’s legacy.
‘One of the greatest’
“You have proven time and again that you are not just a public servant, but one of the greatest boxers of all time. May you continue to inspire Filipinos not only in boxing, but also in the public service,” the President said.
Pacquiao, who has had a glittering 23-year career in the sport, is also a senator and a staunch ally of the President.
The President flew to Malaysia late on Saturday on a private trip. But he was expected to meet with Mahathir for discussions of common concerns, including extremism and piracy on the high seas.
Mahathir was also delighted with Pacquiao’s victory.
“This is a big, big, historical day for Malaysia where we have one Filipino champion fighting in Malaysia, witnessed by the leaders of both countries,” he said.
“That’s why the leaders of both countries have boxing diplomacy. We don’t punch each other,” he added, joking.
Source of pride
Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story, from high school dropout to billionaire world boxing champion in an unprecedented eight divisions, is a huge source of pride in the Philippines.
In keeping with tradition, many Filipinos stopped what they were doing to watch Pacquiao’s fight, which took place around midday on Sunday.
“No one can beat Pacman. It’s still Pacman,” said Venancio Lovino, who watched the fight with friends over drinks at Barangay Booy in Tagbilaran City, Bohol province.
Malacañang said it was one with the nation in celebrating Pacquiao’s victory.
“We thank our Pambansang Kamao (national boxing icon) for not only bringing honor and glory to our flag and country but once again uniting Filipinos here and abroad with his display of courage, tenacity and will power,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Congratulations poured in from Pacquiao’s colleagues in the Senate after he beat Matthysse.
“I thought I was watching Manny 10 years ago. Your fight unites all Filipinos around the world and your victory brings pride to us all. Long live, Senator and champion Manny Pacquiao,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.
‘Thank you, Pacman’
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said: “Few Filipinos can claim to have literally shed blood, sweat and tears for our country, and Senator Pacquiao is one of them. For this and the good work you continue to do for our people, thank you very much, Pacman.”
“As ever, your ability to unite Filipinos and take our breath away with your every move during your matches has no equal. You are our nation’s pride and joy,” Sen. Nancy Binay said.
Sen. Richard Gordon said: “The fight also showed that age does not matter, but it is the will to win that matters.”
Though glad that Pacquiao won, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he wished the champ would exit the ring while he was on top.
“To my colleague, seatmate and friend, I’ll say it again—it is best to leave the stage while the audience is applauding,” Lacson said.
A colleague from the other side of the aisle, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, also congratulated Pacquiao.
“His politics aside, I remain a Manny Pacquiao fan. Congrats, senator,” Trillanes said.
A good man
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, who ruling party PDP-Laban leaders say will be fielded in next year’s senatorial election, took potshots at those who called on Pacquiao to retire or doubted he would win.
“This People’s Champ just refused to give up. No one can put a good man down,” Nograles said.
“Senator Pacquiao’s victory is an inspiration to all Filipinos: Never give up,” he added.
His brother, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles, whose group Pacquiao had endorsed and bankrolled, said the champion delivered “his most killer performance in almost nine years since he knocked out Miguel Cotto in 2009.”
“Lucas Matthysse was no match for Pacman, and it’s testament to the discipline that Manny has to taking care of his body and to juggling his profession as both a fighter and lawmaker,” Nograles said.
“He continues to be a fine example to athletes and common Filipinos alike. With discipline, nothing is impossible,” he added.
Congratulations also came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, where Pacquiao is a a colonel in the reserve force.
Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said Pacquiao “did not only demonstrate the Filipino’s natural trait of strength and courage, he also showed the world how determined, disciplined and hardworking the Filipinos are, just like his comrades in the AFP.” —Reports from AFP, Julie M. Aurelio, DJ Yap, Vince F. Nonato, Jeannette I. Andrade, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Leo Udtohan and Nestle Semilla