by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – Manny Pacquiao won the fight with David Diaz not only because he a is a better, more experienced fighter, but also because of the overwhelming support of his fans. This was evident in the number of Filipino fans that filled the Mandalay Bay Event Center, outnumbering the Mexicans by a ratio of 8 to 2.
“It’s a matter of FiIipino pride,” declared Vince Gozon, who flew down from San Francisco with two friends. “Pacquiao is part of our country, and he’s gonna knock him (Diaz) out in Round 5,” Gozon told Asian Journal prior to the bout.
“I was here also during his last fight,” said Allan Pineda, (Apl.de.Ap), who came to watch the fight with Black-Eyed Peas co-founder Will.I.Am. “Because my friend here told me I should support Pacquiao,” Will.I.Am said. “He’s a Filipino that has a dream and he is a representative of the Philippines, so we support him,” he added.
The buzz about the 59
Philippine Congressmen coming to Las Vegas to watch the fight did not materialize. Apart from house Speaker Prospero Nogales of Iloilo, the only other politician that we encountered at the Event Center was former Senator Robert Jaworski. “I haven’t seen any of them (Congressmen), so I doubt that they would be here,” Jaworski said. “I guess they are out on a mission in Washington (DC), so I haven’t seen any of them.”
When I asked him to describe Manny Pacquiao, Senator Jaworski said, “Well, first of all, I believe that Manny has become a symbol of unity and hope for the Philippines. I hope and pray that he wins, particularly with the very serious accident (ferry sunk by storm) that happened recently.” The senator said that the storm cost so many lives in the cuntry. “I feel that he (Pacquiao) could somehow uplift so many who are in deep sorrow because of that fateful accident.”
Agnes Briones of Jollibee also came with three colleagues to support the fighter from General Santos City. “We have to support our kababayan,” Briones said. “We also want to promote our brand to the many Filipinos who came here for the fight. We have a branch at South Maryland Parkway.”
Three very close friends of the boxer would not miss the fight for the world. “Siyempre, kaibigan namin si Manny,” said Lito Camo, songwriter-composer, who writes the entrance songs for Pacquiao and for Willie Revillame of the Philippine television show, Wowowee. “Hindi lang kami Team Pacquiao, kami ay solid na magkakaibigan. Everytime na me laban si Manny, kahit saan pa yan, talagang pumupunta kami, at pinipilit naming dumating para mabuo ang Team Pacquiao,” Camo said.
Ruben Mijos, originally from Bohol province and a bus driver at McCarran International Airport, came with two friends. He brought a customized Philippine flag with the name of the champion pugilist emblazoned across the bottom of the flag. “Fan ako ni Pacquiao; talagang diehard,” he said. “One hundred per cent na panalo in nine to 10 rounds,” he assured.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, has remained humble even after his historic win in four weight divisions. “I’m so happy that I won by knockout. I’m grateful for a fantastic victory tonight,” he told journalists and fans at the after-the-fight press conference. He also thanked members of the Boston Celtics — his favorite basketball team — for watching the fight and supporting him. “I did not expect to win the fourth title tonight. I thank Top rank, Bob Arum, the media, and Mandalay Bay for this fight.”
Looking none the worse for wear, Pacquiao said, “I feel he (Diaz) hurt me once. He is strong, and I am lucky that I won tonight.” Says his trainer, Freddie Roach, “It’s always a scare when you cut your weight. Manny worked out in the gym everyday, and he knew that he could out-speed Diaz. At 135 (lbs.), he looks great. I’m proud of his right hand tonight.”
“I’m just a fighter. My job is to prepare and fight,” Pacquiao said. “Idini-dedicate ko ito sa mga kababayan at mga biktima ng typhoon. Gagawa ako ng paraan para makatulong sa kanila,” Pacquiao promised. Responding to a sportswriter, Pacquiao declared, “I do not want to compare myself with other fighters. I just want to go out there and do my job and make people happy.”
Promoter Bob Arum told Diaz: “You are a great fighter; you are a great young man. Boxing needs more men like you.” Diaz, whose face sustained several cuts, arrived at the conference first and thanked supporters. “You’re gonna win; you’re gonna lose, and tonight we’re here not to offer excuses,” Diaz said. “It’s the speed that got me. My respect goes for him (Pacquaio). Tomorrow, we’ll get back and fight again. It’s all in good fun. I had fun tonight.”