MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines united in celebration on Sunday as its boxing hero Manny Pacquiao cemented his comeback by avenging his 2012 loss to American Timothy Bradley to regain the World Boxing Organization welterweight world title.
Crowds watching the fight, which was broadcast live from Las Vegas in several parks, squares and public stadiums around the archipelago, erupted in cheers as Pacquiao was declared winner in a unanimous 12-round decision.
“The people of the nation are united in cheering on the victory of the nation’s fist, Congressman Manny Pacquiao. He is the symbol of the excellence of the Filipino in all endeavors,” said President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma shortly after the victory.
He said Pacquiao’s latest victory was symbolic of the way Filipinos can recover from the worst disasters, an apparent reference to Super Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake that struck the country last year, killing thousands.
Street sweeper Fernando Baque 52, one of the thousands who watched the fight on a giant screen in a park in suburban Manila, said: “I was happy to see him win. He can still take it. He isn’t that old. He really controlled the fight. His punches really rocked Bradley.
“He shouldn’t retire yet. The country still needs him,” he told AFP.
Questions about whether Pacquiao had grown too old to fight surfaced after he suffered two consecutive defeats: first a decision to Bradley in June, 2012 and then a knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez in December that year.
But since then, Pacquiao has appeared to be regaining his old form, winning an overwhelming points victory over Brandon Rios to win the World Boxing Organization international welterweight championship in Macau last November.
While he failed to knock out Bradley, his Filipino fans were not disappointed by his performance.
“I really prayed for this. He really looked strong this time. As long as his body can take it, he should keep it up,” said 50-year-old carer, Elsie Vinluan.
However 72-year-old retiree, William Saraste said Pacquiao should retire after just one more fight.
“He already has enough money and he can’t go on for much longer. I wish he would fight (American Floyd) Mayweather. That should be his last fight,” he said.
A match between Pacquiao and Mayweather, both once considered among the best fighters of their generation, has long been hoped for but has also been repeatedly scuttled due to various conflicts.