ABU DHABI // Manny Pacquiao dedicated his world welterweight title win against the American Brandon Rios on Sunday to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in his country.
Pacquiao, 34, had suffered two consecutive defeats and he was hoping to re-establish his reputation as one of the world’s best fighters after a brutal knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez last year.
In the UAE, thousands of Filipinos gathered at cafes and restaurants in the early hours to see their compatriot fight.
The WBO International Welterweight fight dubbed “Clash in Cotai” was broadcast live from The Venetian in Macau.
At the Philippine House Restaurant on Najda Street, more than 150 fans watched the action on three 45-inch flat screen televisions.
Bleary-eyed boxing aficionados packed the restaurant as early as 6am. The fight did not start until two and a half hours later, after four undercard bouts.
Pacquiao, the winner of world titles across eight divisions, was desperate to break his losing streak.
Fans enthusiastically clapped, shouted, threw punches into the air and ducked their heads with each blow Pacquiao rained down on Rios throughout the 12 rounds.
Marjorie Aguilar, 31, a hotel receptionist, was one of two women in a predominantly male crowd.
“I’m a certified Pacquiao fan and usually watch his fights at home,” she said. “We saw how he was so determined to win for the Yolanda victims.”
Pacquiao’s victory was seen to bring hope and inspiration to the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, which struck the country on November 8. The typhoon left thousands dead and 1.6 million homeless.
“Now is the time for Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather,” said Perfecto Credo, 54, who works for Esnaad, a subsidiary of Adnoc. “He doesn’t need to take on Marquez to prove that he’s a better fighter.”
Mr Credo arrived at the restaurant at 5am to watch a fight live for the first time. His work usually takes him offshore.
His colleague Anselmo Espia, 40, said: “We saw how hungry he was to win this time around. He’s really strong and well prepared for this fight. He’s truly our national hero.”
Kevin Zafra, 29, an aircraft mechanic, was initially unsure about a Pacquiao victory.
“He had a great performance,” Mr Zafra said. “He’s back. He’s the best fighter there is.”
A roar erupted when Pacquiao was awarded the victory by unanimous decision.
“We know how much he is an inspiration to all Filipinos,” said Cristopher Harina, 30, a cabin aircraft technician. “He has truly won back the trust and faith of all boxing fans in his strength, agility and resilience.”