x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Early start for Filipino boxing fans to see Pacquiao’s showdown with Rios

Filipino fans in the UAE will turn out in droves to watch their national hero Manny Pacquiao take on Brandon Rios in a welterweight match broadcast live from The Venetian in Macau via pay-per-view.

ABU DHABI // Thousands of Filipinos will gather in the country’s cafes in the early hours of Sunday morning to watch national hero Manny Pacquiao’s showdown with US boxer Brandon Rios.

Restaurants are opening as early as 6am for the clash, on pay-per-view live from Macau.

It is expected to be a career-defining fight for Pacquiao, 34, who has lost his past two bouts – one a sixth-round knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez.

“It is going to be his last card,” said Fred Manangan, 54, a mechanical engineer in Abu Dhabi. “If he loses, it will be the end of his career.”

But Mr Manangan has faith that Pacquiao will rebound from his knockout loss.

“He has a strong chance to win the fight this time around,” he said.

His wife, Marlyn, said they were preparing to welcome boxing fans to their Kainan Filipino Restaurant in Icad, Mussaffah. Last year, about 200 people showed up to watch the fight via pay-per-view on a big-screen TV.

“Filipinos are looking forward to a great show,” she said.

Boxing fans in the capital will be spoilt for choice, with three branches of the Philippine House Restaurant open as early as 6am.

They can watch the fight on a 45-inch flat-screen TV and get a Filipino breakfast for Dh30.

“We’ve been doing this every year,” said Mary Baganao, supervisor at the restaurant. “We expect more than 150 people in our Najda branch alone.”

Another boxing fan, Mel Pugni, 62, said he normally took time off to watch Pacquiao fights but would have to catch a replay of this welterweight match.

“I’m sure that he’ll put up a good fight,” Mr Pugni said. “He is the winner of world titles at eight different weight divisions. A loss will not put an end to his career.”

Ernesto Refugio, 58, a civil engineer in Abu Dhabi, has never missed a Pacquiao fight.

“His coach, Freddie Roach, said it would be a make-or-break fight,” Mr Refugio said. “But what’s so special about this fight is he has dedicated it to all the families affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.”

Pacquiao, who is also a Philippines congressman, has provided relief to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the country on November 8.

“He will do everything to win this fight,” said Demosthenes Luceno, 42, an adviser of the non-profit group Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit sa Abu Dhabi.

“We can see his hunger to win and he’s more focused now. Our countrymen really need this morale boost after the earthquake in Bohol and the typhoon.”

rruiz@thenational.ae