Filipino fight fans united by Manny Pacquiao ring return
Dubai residents will be out in force to support "The National Fist" on Sunday morning
One man will have an entire nation in his corner on Sunday morning, as boxing icon Manny Pacquiao makes his return to the ring.
The 12-time world champion's 70th bout against American Adrien Broner - coming at the age of 40 and 24 years after his debut - will be relished by Filipino fight fans in Dubai.
Beamed live on prime time in America on Saturday night, the time difference to the UAE will see his devoted supporters transfixed by the bout during breakfast.
As far as his Filipino fan base in the UAE is concerned, his latest fight represents much more than just another boxing match on a glittering record.
One person who will be making sure they are tuned in is radio presenter Grant Gomez, from Tag FM.
“Every Filipino loves the guy. He is known as ‘The National Fist’ and he is the one that unites us all,” he said.
‘Even the crime rate drops back home when he steps into the ring.”
The 36-year-old said that Pacquiao also brings the Filipino community in Dubai together.
“You will find lots of people meeting up with friends just to watch the fight – it’s a big event when Manny fights,” he said.
Mr Gomez is not alone in his admiration for the pugilist and politician.
“Manny represents us all when he fights,” said accountant Jojo Africa, 30.
“He is the pride of the Philippines and we are all so proud of him. He is a real rags to riches tale and shows us all that no matter your situation there is a future for you.”
Mr Africa has a problem though when it comes to seeing the big fight.
“Unfortunately I live in Sharjah but work in Dubai which means I won’t get to see any of it,” he said.
“Usually I would watch it with friends here but this time I will have to catch a replay later that night.”
The prize fighter is so popular with his countrymen that he was voted into public office as a senator in 2010, adding another win to his illustrious CV.
One person not surprised by Pacquiao's enduring popularity is Mark Borromeo, 27, a customer service worker in Dubai.
“He is a hero to the whole country and especially to me and my friends,” he said.
“I will gather around with a few of my friends to watch the fight even though it is on early on Sunday morning.
“That’s if my employer will give me time off. I am hoping they will because Manny Pacquiao is one of my all-time heroes.”
Also eagerly awaiting the fight is customer service supervisor Rene Fembrano, 38.
“I will be watching the fight with my family,” he said.
“The family will be together to watch because he is a national hero and he represents everything that is good about the Philippines.”
Updated: January 18, 2019 03:25 PM