Pacquiao fight seen to cheer up Marawi evacuees
MARAWI CITY — Even in this difficult time, evacuees and fans of boxing superstar Sen. Manny Pacquiao will not be missing his highly anticipated match against virtually unknown Australian slugger Jeff Horn on Sunday.
Pacquiao, who announced his “retirement” from boxing in April after defeating American boxer Timothy Bradley by unanimous decision, would be facing Horn at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane today.
And his fans here, including evacuees staying at the social hall of the provincial capitol, would be able to catch the live telecast after Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. ordered the installation of cable television, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the local crisis management committee.
“We would like to make them happy even for a moment only,” Adiong said, adding that he counts himself as a fan.
Maranaos were among Pacquiao’s biggest fans and among the 15.2 million voters who sent the boxing legend to the Senate during last year’s elections.
Bombay Lininding, an evacuee from Moncado Colony here, said he had not missed any of Pacquiao’s fight.
“I would even stop taking passengers during his fights,” said Lininding, a tricycle driver.
Lininding said Pacquiao, a reserved military officer, still packed a killer punch even at 38.
The 29-year-old Horn—who never fought outside of Australia—was considered “unheralded” as he lacked any signature victory defining his career.
He goes against Pacquiao, an explosive ring veteran who parlayed his fame into a successful career in entertainment and politics. Sunday’s match is believed to be a warm-up bout for Pacquiao, who has reportedly set his sights on a rematch with fellow ring legend Floyd Mayweather, who had once beaten him.
No free viewing
But even then, Suncorp Stadium was expected to pack an excess of 50,000 fans for the fight dubbed the biggest in Australian boxing history.
As for soldier-fans, Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said those who were assigned inside the provincial capitol here might be able to watch the live telecast inside the social hall.
But for those out in the field or assigned at the military headquarters just across the capitol compound, there will be no free live viewing for them, he said.
A military officer said the free viewing for the soldiers outside of the capitol might not really happen as they had more important things to do.
“I believe our troops have no more time for that. It is luxury enough that they get sleep, even how short it is. We can’t even take a decent bath most of the time here at the rear, how much more for those who are on the front line,” the officer said.
The military has been battling the Maute group and its allies since May 23. As the fight dragged on, 82 soldiers had already been killed. The Maute group, which suffered 303 deaths since, was also being blamed for the deaths of 44 civilians here.
In Iligan City, Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz said the security situation in the city might not be conducive for a large crowd gathering, which was why they have not thought of sponsoring a live view of the fight.
Hundreds of displaced Marawi residents had sought refuge in Iligan since the outbreak of violence, forcing officials to place the city on high alert status.
There would also be no government-sponsored viewing in Cotabato City—where security concerns were also high.
Pacquiao fans elsewhere, however, would have a chance to view the fight live.
In Digos City, Mayor Joseph Peñas said the free viewing would be at Almendras gymnasium.
In Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, Mayor Shameem Mastura said the local government also sponsored free viewing.
In Buluan, Maguindanao, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu—a big Pacquiao fan himself—said the provincial government would sponsor a free live viewing event. —With reports from Williamor Magbanua, Charlie Señasem Edwub Fernandez, Eldie Aguirre, Frinston Lim, and Jigger Jerusalem