Pac­quiao loss stuns war-weary Filipinos

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

MARAWI, Philip­pines: Millions of box­ing fans in the Philip­pines, in­clud­ing those dis­placed by fight­ing with Is­lamist mil­i­tants, walked away in stunned dins­be­lief as na­tional hero Manny Pac­quiao lost his world ti­tle to Aus­tralian Jeff Horn in a ma­jor up­set yesterday. Pac­quiao, 38, is an elected se­na­tor and a uni­fy­ing fig­ure in the South­east Asian na­tion be­set by con­flict, grind­ing poverty, and fre­quent nat­u­ral calami­ties. Res­i­dents of a war-torn south­ern city had hoped for a respite by watch­ing the 12-round fight in dis­place­ment camps but their idol’s de­feat si­lenced cheers and prompted many to stand up even be­fore the an­nounce­ment was over.

“It pains our hearts so much. Pac­quiao lost and we are think­ing about our burned houses. We hoped we could some­how get joy and help,” dis­placed res­i­dent Mok­tar Sung­god, 42, told AFP af­ter watch­ing the fight in an evac­u­a­tion cen­ter near war-rav­aged Marawi city. Is­lamist mil­i­tants who went on a ram­page in Marawi on May 23 have trig­gered weeks of in­tense fight­ing with the coun­try’s mil­i­tary that has killed more than 400 peo­ple and forced nearly 400,000 peo­ple to flee their homes.

In Manila, sol­diers wounded from the clashes in Marawi watched a blood­ied Pac­quiao from screens set up in a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal. Pac­quiao had bled pro­fusely from cuts to the head high above both eyes, prompt­ing boos from crowds gath­ered in gym­na­si­ums in the cap­i­tal. “Pac­quiao lost, but a bat­tle is re­ally like that. He is a true sol­dier be­cause even if he is wounded he keeps at­tack­ing the op­po­nent,” armed forces chief Gen­eral Ed­uardo Ano told re­porters.

Some Filipinos found it dif­fi­cult to ac­cept the unan­i­mous de­ci­sion af­ter they felt Pac­quiao had dom­i­nated the fight. “It’s a home­town de­ci­sion,” Ja­mael Pang­gaga, a Marawi res­i­dent dis­placed by six weeks of fight­ing, told Reuters. “It’s very clear, Horn’s face was bat­tered, Manny only was blood­ied be­cause of head butts, how can he lose?” said Sergeant Badrodin An­dak, who was among troops guard­ing the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal. “It’s a sad day for the Philip­pines,” Div­ina­gra­cia Matutina said in a Face­book post. “I was dev­as­tated, never ex­pected Manny to lose.” The unan­i­mous de­ci­sion was con­sid­ered con­tro­ver­sial in the Philip­pines be­cause many be­lieved Horn was a dirty fighter, who of­ten used his head to in­jure Pac­quiao.

Pac­quiao, a staunch ally of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, re­ceived praise from the pres­i­den­tial palace. “Noth­ing will change: Se­na­tor Manny Pac­quiao will re­main our peo­ple’s champ, na­tional fist, and trea­sure,” said Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella. Pac­quiao’s rags-to-riches story, from high school dropout to mil­lion­aire world box­ing cham­pion in an un­prece­dented eight weight di­vi­sions, is a huge source of pride in the Philip­pines. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion, many Filipinos watched Pac­quiao’s fight, which took place around mid­day yesterday in the Philip­pines time zone, in pub­lic places, in­clud­ing in restau­rants and wa­ter­ing holes.

How­ever crowds have grad­u­ally be­come thin­ner as Pac­quiao hits the twi­light of a glit­ter­ing ca­reer. Pac­quiao, who briefly re­tired last year be­fore mak­ing a suc­cess­ful come­back against Jessie Var­gas in Novem­ber, had been ex­pected to knock out Horn in a “short and sweet” fight, ac­cord­ing to his trainer. “I don’t think he lost. He was cheated! He still came out a strong fighter,” con­struc­tion worker Rudy Mer­ano, 30, told AFP in a pub­lic square of Manila’s Marik­ina sub­urb. “But I think Pac­quiao should re­tire and just fo­cus on be­ing se­na­tor.” Box­ing an­a­lysts said Pac­quiao should think hard about a pos­si­ble re­match with Horn. — Agen­cies

MARAWI, Philip­pines: Dis­placed res­i­dents and sol­diers watch the World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion wel­ter­weight box­ing match be­tween Manny Pac­quiao of the Philip­pines and chal­lenger Jeff Horn of Aus­tralia at the Lanao Del Sur Capi­tol in this city on the south­ern Philip­pine is­land of Min­danao yesterday. — AFP

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