, MANILA, May 3 – Millions of boxing fans in the Philippines shouted and groaned in disappointment on Sunday as national hero Manny Pacquiao lost to American rival Floyd Mayweather in the “fight of the century”.
Filipinos filled gymnasiums, cinemas and bars across the nation to watch Pacquiao’s 12-round battle with Mayweather in Las Vegas, which he lost in a unanimous points decision that many at home deemed unfair.
“There should be a rematch. Pacquiao won’t accept this defeat. He is still fighting and he is still strong,” government clerk Willie Mirabuena, 48, told AFP.
Mirabuena was among thousands of mostly poor people who had gathered in the main public square of Manila’s Marikina suburb to watch the fight on a giant screen mounted on the back of a flat-bed truck.
In the southern port city of Zamboanga, loud boos echoed inside an army gymnasium where thousands of soldiers and their relatives also watched Pacquiao.
“The decision was unfair. From the start, the commentators were for Manny. Everyone is disappointed,” Lieutenant Colonel Noel Precioso said as others nearby expressed similar sentiments.
“Manny was the sure winner. We are not satisfied and we are totally disappointed,” said army soldier Cris Delfin, who brought his young son with him to watch the fight.
The Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ground to a halt as most people stopped to watch Pacquiao, a unifying figure in a country beset by grinding poverty, serial natural calamities and corruption.
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 hope and pride in the Philippines.
Pacquiao is an “inspiration for every Filipino”, President Benigno Aquino said in a statement before the fight.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said immediately after the loss that it had not diminished Pacquiao’s standing in the Philippines.
“Pacquiao is truly the People’s Champ. He fought for respect, not points. He won the hearts of the world,” Lacierda said in a statement.
Pacquiao, 36, leveraged his boxing popularity to get elected in parliament in 2010 and he has said he may run for president in the future.
Pacquiao is also a coveted endorser of international and local brands and has starred in self-produced movies, television shows and music albums.
The fight was touted as the most lucrative in boxing history, with projected revenues of over $370 million from pay-per-view and ticket sales.
The match also took on a “good versus” evil tone, pitting the humble, devout Christian Pacquiao against the brash Mayweather.