Sun, May 03, 2009

Filipinos rejoice at boxing icon Pacquiao's victory

2009-05-03 11:13:29 GMT2009-05-03 19:13:29 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Liu Hua and Jeoffrey Maitem

MANILA, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Streets were empty on Sunday morning as millions of Filipinos were glued to television screens to watch their boxing hero Manny Pacquiao's fight against British boxer Ricky Hatton.

The 12-round bout for the International Boxing Organization (IBO) light welterweight crown was held at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, the United States, almost 12,000 kilometers away from the Southeast Asian country. However, Pacquicao's fellow countrymen felt it close enough for them to witness the boxing icon's speed, strength and spirit.

Countless viewers -- packed in front of screens in bars, parks, cinemas, restaurants and shopping malls -- cheered heartily and threw their punches into the air as the Filipino superstar knocked out his rival with a left hook 15 seconds before the end of the second round of the match. Pacquiao, 1.69 meters, sent Hatton, 1.68 meters, down twice in the first round before knocking him out in the second and leaving him flat on his back.

Even Pacquiao himself said he did not expect the bout would come to an end so quickly, adding that he used his right hooks to pressure Hatton.

"I didn't expect a short fight. He hit me hard. I was lucky to have hit him with a right hook. He was surprised with my right hand. Yes, he was strong, and I was careful not to be hit," the Filipino told reporters after the bout.

In Pacquiao's hometown, the southern Philippine city of General Santos, Rommel Rebollido -- a local resident and big fan of the 30-year-old boxer -- attributed the quick win to good strategy against the British boxer, known as "the Hitman." Hatton, also 30 years old, was a two-time IBF and IBO light welterweight champion.

"They (Pacquiao's team) knew what Hatton will do in the ring," Rebellido said after watching the fight at a local restaurant, adding that the team did study Hatton's move carefully before the match.

"Unlike in previous fights of Pacquiao's, there's something missing because he beat Hatton in just (the) second round (of the 12)," he added, apparently a little discontented in spite of happiness.

Entering the professional arena at 106 pounds in 1995, the Filipino boxer had moved up his weight levels and won world championship titles in four different weight divisions before he snatched the IBO crown from Hatton.

Previously, the Filipino superstar had bagged titles of the World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight, lightweight and super featherweight, and International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight. He has also held the Ring Magazine titles of featherweight, super featherweight, and light welterweight divisions.

Just like in the past, the Pacquiao Day proved to be a peaceful day in the country that has been haunted by rebellion problems for decades.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, a military spokesman in the restive south, told Xinhua by phone that there was a "zero incidence" of military clash between government soldiers and separatist rebels in the region on Sunday morning.

Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest rebel group, also extended their congratulations to the Filipino boxing champion after the match, dubbed "Battle of East and West."

"We have set up, too, televisions in some of our camps so our forces can watch the fight. But those in far-flung areas, they only listened to radios," he added.

Earlier, a military officer said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines was expecting -- just like in the past -- key threat groups to observe an undeclared truce to enable their fighters to watch Pacquiao's performance and that the military had set up a wide screen at its headquarters to give soldiers and their families a chance to watch for free the highly-anticipated fight.

After the fight, Cerge Remonde -- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's press secretary -- said the Chief Executive lauded Pacquiao for his victory although she was too busy to watch the match herself. President Arroyo, Remonde, and other government officials are in Egypt for an official visit.

"The President is joining the entire nation in gratitude to God for the spectacular victory of our Manny Pacquiao (who) showed the world the best in the Filipino," Remonde told a Filipino radio station.

Remonde said they were "very elated and very ecstatic" to learn that Pacquiao beat his rival in the second round of the bout, appealing all the Filipinos to "make him a model to improve our nation."

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