MANILA, November 13, 2013 (AFP) – Boxing star Manny Pacquiao admitted feelings of anguish and regret after the final stages of training for a must-win fight kept him from visiting typhoon victims in his native Philippines.
Pacquiao said he felt “very bad” for the thousands killed and displaced by super typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful ever recorded, which swept through central islands.
But Pacquiao, who is training out of harm’s way in his home city of General Santos, said he could not jeopardise preparations for his November 24 fight against America’s Brandon Rios.
“I really feel very bad over what happened in the Visayas region where more than 10,000 people are believed to have lost their lives,” Pacquiao said in a “statement to his people” posted on his website.
“I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy but I’m in deep training in General Santos City for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go.”
The 34-year-old Congressman pledged to send aid to affected areas, where the desperate search for supplies has turned deadly with eight people killed in a crush at a government rice store.
“I will send help to those who need it the most and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times,” he said.
Pacquiao, a former champion in eight weight divisions, is bidding to turn back the clock and recover from two consecutive defeats when he faces Rios in Macau on November 24.
Defeat would redouble expectations for his retirement, although Pacquiao has insisted he will not hang up his gloves if he loses the World Boxing Organization welterweight title bout.
The United Nations estimates 10,000 deaths from Typhoon Haiyan, although President Benigno Aquino says the toll is closer to 2,500.
An international relief operation is in action with 11.3 million people—a tenth of the Philippines’ population—affected and 673,000 people homeless, according to UN estimates.