By OLIVER TEVES
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Filipino fans were stunned by Manny Pacquiao’s knockout defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez, dampening the spirit of a nation battered by a powerful typhoon that killed more than 600 people in the southern region where the boxing champion lives.
In New Bataan township, which was ravaged by Typhoon Bopha last week, refugees, rescuers and aid workers took a break from a grueling search for bodies and survivors to watch the fight on a big TV screen _ only to be disappointed by their hero’s sixth-round knockout.
The fight took place Saturday night in Las Vegas, or Sunday in the Philippines. Town spokesman Marlon Esperanza said hundreds of villagers, most of whom lost their homes to mud- and rock-laden flash floods, packed the local gymnasium used as a temporary shelter. Many had hoped Pacquiao would triumph and share his earnings with the typhoon victims.
“People were really dismayed,” Esperanza told The Associated Press by telephone. “It was like they were hit by another typhoon.”
Elementary math teacher Constancio Olivar said people were cheering for Pacquiao in the sixth round, then fell silent when Marquez landed a shot flush to the jaw of Pacquiao, who fell heavily to the canvas and remained motionless for some time.
“It was like a double blow for me _ this disaster and this defeat,” said Olivar, whose house was destroyed in the storm. “We were all crestfallen. Everyone fell silent, stunned. It was like we saw a tsunami.”
In Manila, President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Pacquiao’s defeat “cannot set aside the many honors Manny has given to the Filipino people.”
“Nothing has changed, the Filipino people continue to admire and support Manny,” he said.
Boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielsz said the defeat could demoralize Filipinos, particularly those in the typhoon-hit areas on the main southern island of Mindanao where Pacquiao is from.
“It’s a double tragedy,” he said. “People were looking at Pacquiao winning to give them some joy, some hope, some satisfaction. It didn’t happen. On top of that, their anguish is further heightened as a result of his loss. … This is like (Bopha) took a U-turn and came back to hit us with a Pacquiao knockout.”
Nathanielsz said Pacquiao, who trained for two months, may not have spent enough time for physical conditioning unlike Marquez, who spent twice as many months preparing for the fight.
“The problem is when you get older, everything else must flow from the basic foundation of strength and conditioning. If you are not in condition, you have a problem,” he said.
At the Baclaran Central Elementary School hall in the Manila suburb of Paranaque, where hundreds watched the fight, government employee Jacqueline Gabriel said she was dismayed by Pacquiao’s performance.
“Pacman is weaker now,” she said, using Pacquiao’s nickname. “He is no longer like what he used to be. … He should retire now.”
But factory worker Charlie Cerillo, 37, said Pacquiao, who is also a congressman, should not retire yet.
“He should not have been a congressman. He should focus on sports and if he wants to be a congressman, he should focus on being a congressman,” he said.
Pacquiao’s mother, Dionisia, said that if it was up to her, she wanted her son to stop boxing.
“I want him to rest now, to relax,” she told DZMM radio. “If he wants to be a politician, let him serve and pour everything into that. … Only God will make him stop.”