x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bouts of doubt for Manny fans

It was a strange feeling for the Filipino community, who are not used to walking away from watching a Manny Pacquiao win and thinking 'maybe, just maybe, our boy lost'.

Fans at the Goto King restaurant in Abu Dhabi's Khalidiyah Mall celebrate a win by Manny Pacquiao over the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez but not before they had some tense moments, below.
Fans at the Goto King restaurant in Abu Dhabi's Khalidiyah Mall celebrate a win by Manny Pacquiao over the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez but not before they had some tense moments, below.

ABU DHABI // Filipinos were left with mixed feelings after the early rise to watch their national hero, Manny Pacquiao, successfully defend his world title against the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez yesterday.

The welterweight slug-out, which was broadcast live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, ended in a majority decision going Pacquiao's way, but some of his compatriots were less than impressed.

More than 200 fans watched the "pound for pound king" on four giant projector screens and 10 TVs at the Goto King Filipino restaurant in Khalidiyah Mall.

"Pacquiao felt intimidated by Marquez," said Rey Balonzo, 46, a Filipino civil engineer. "I didn't see his fire, speed and his agility in the ring. He was a disappointment."

Jay-R Angeles, 32, an engineer-consultant in Abu Dhabi, said Marquez should have won: "I'm not convinced of Pacquiao's victory. He lacked speed and power."

The main fight began at 9am, but most fans had gathered at the mall by 5am to watch the support bouts that started at 5.30.

By 6.30 there were Syrians, Jordanians, two Australians and an Emirati among the predominantly Filipino crowd.

"He shouldn't have won but that's boxing," said Stewart Moller, 40, an Australian former professional boxer who now works as a personal trainer in Abu Dhabi. "One guy gave eight rounds to Pacquiao."

Mr Moller and his friend Danny Evans, 38, a management consultant, were at the restaurant by 6am.

"Pacquiao is a great fighter," said Mr Moller. "He's polite and treats his opponents with respect."

Yesterday was the third time the two boxers have met. They fought to a draw in May 2004 and Pacquiao won a split decision during his March 2008 rematch with Marquez.

But not all Filipinos at the restaurant were as down on their hero as others.

"I'm proud of Pacquiao and the honour he gives to Filipinos and our country," said Angelo Marquez, 37, the lead vocalist and comedian of the rock and comedy band Beautiful Malditas.

Mr Marquez has not missed any of the "Pacman's" fights since moving to the UAE in 2004.

He watched from the same restaurant six months ago as Pacquiao, who has won world titles across eight divisions, beat the US boxer Shane Mosley to retain his WBO welterweight title.

Maan Darawsheh, 32, the restaurant's food and beverage manager, was among the disappointed.

"This was a very important fight for Pacquiao and the Filipinos here," Mr Darawsheh said. "But that's how it is. I'm a Pacquiao fan. I was into kickboxing when I was 18 in Jordan."

Ivan Quibuyen, 28, a nurse at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and his colleague Aristotle Baun, 30, had taken the day off to watch the fight.

"Pacquiao is younger and he's stronger and faster than Marquez," Mr Quibuyen said. "But I must admit that Marquez was a much better fighter today."

Carlito Atienza, 52, a foreman, said he was upset by the judge's decision.

"They favoured Pacquiao because he was a title-holder and was a 10-1 betting favourite against Marquez," Mr Atienza said. "They didn't want people to lose their money."

At Rocky's Cafe, a Filipino restaurant and bar in Regent Palace Hotel in Dubai, many of the more than 200 boxing fans in attendance also felt Pacquiao had lost. They had been looking forward to his usual commanding and impressive performance.

"But many were disappointed," said Melanie Avenir, the restaurant's supervisor. "Some even booed when Pacquiao was proclaimed the winner."

Butch Mendoza, 23, who works at an insurance company in Dubai, did not share that sentiment. He watched the bout at home along with nine flatmates.

"We were all expecting Pacquiao to dominate the fight," Mr Mendoza said.

"When you watch the fight closely, you'll notice that Pacquiao threw and landed more punches.

"He was the aggressive fighter in the 10th to 12th rounds and he deserved to win this fight."

rruiz@thenational.ae