The Philippines reacted with shock and sadness Sunday after national boxing hero Manny Pacquiao was knocked out by Mexican Juan Miguel Marquez in a fight in Las Vegas.
From the highest corners of government to the man on the street, Pacquiao’s defeat dampened spirits already weighed down in a country dealing with a killer typhoon that left 1,300 dead or missing this week.
In the fighter’s hometown of General Santos City, in the southern Philippines, where the fight was broadcast live in several public stadiums, shocked viewers reacted with stunned silence after Pacquiao fell in the sixth round before a raucous 16,000-strong crowd at the MGM Grand Garden arena.
“We were all silent because we were unsure what happened. He was unconscious for so long,” said businessman Jun Bayonico, 51, who watched the fight live with friends and relatives.
“For so many years, he was our idol. We were saddened by what happened but maybe this is a sign he should retire. It would have been better if he retired as a winner,” he added.
The 39-year-old Marquez sent down Pacquiao, 33, face first to the canvas with a right hand with one second left of the round to win their welterweight fight — their fourth meeting — late Saturday in the US city.
President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said despite the defeat, the country would not turn its back on the superstar fighter who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
“Nothing will change. The people of the Philippines will continue to support Manny. We join them in praying for the return of his strength and determination,” Lacierda said in a statement.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also quickly declared his confidence that Pacquiao, who has parlayed his boxing championships into a showbiz career and election to parliament, would surely make a comeback.
“I am certain that Manny will rise from this adversity a better and stronger person,” he said in a statement.
Boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielz, in an interview with DZMM radio station, said Pacquiao’s strategy to abandon his usual strength and conditioning training was to blame for the loss.
He also said Pacquiao giving up his usual pre-fight ritual- wearing a rosary to the ring- may have also had an effect on the fighter, a devout Christian.
Pacquiao had hoped to win a definitive victory over Marquez after three previous encounters that resulted in one draw and close victories for Pacquiao.
In his previous fight, Pacquiao lost the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in June to Tim Bradley in a controversial split decision.
There have been questions about Pacquiao’s focus on his boxing in recent years as he had to deal with his duties as a congressman, host of a TV game show, a bible preacher and pitchman for various products.