x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Manny Pacquiao fans turn out in force to watch boxer beat Marquez

More than 200 fans watched on giant screens at the Goto King Filipino restaurant in Khalidiya Mall this morning as their idol defended his WBO welterweight title.

Boxing fans filled up Goto King Restaurant in Khalidiya Mall to watch the Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez World Welterweight Championship.
Boxing fans filled up Goto King Restaurant in Khalidiya Mall to watch the Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez World Welterweight Championship.

ABU DHABI // Boxing fans who got up early this morning to watch Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao defend his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title against Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez felt proud of yet another victory for the world's "pound for pound" king.

Pacquiao, the winner of world titles across eight divisions, won by a majority decision after a tough battle against the Mexican fighter in Las Vegas Saturday night. He was awarded victory by two judges 115-113 and 116-112, while a third had the fight as a 114-114 draw.

The fight was telecast live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At the Goto King Filipino restaurant in Khalidiya Mall this morning, more than 200 fans watched on four giant projector screens and 10 televisions.

"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 rock and comedy band Beautiful Malditas.

The Filipino entertainer has not missed any of Pacquiao's fights since moving to the UAE in 2004. He watched Pacquiao beat the American boxer Pacquiao-Shane Mosley to retain his WBO welterweight title at the same restaurant in May.

However, many were unhappy with the judges' decision this morning. "[Pacquiao] 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."

Today was the two boxers' third meeting. Marquez has claimed victory in both previous fights, although they fought to a draw in May 2004 and Pacquiao won a split decision during their March 2008 rematch.

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."

They were not the earliest; most fans had arrived at the mall by 5am. By 6.30am, there were Syrians, Jordanians, Australian and an Emirati among the predominantly Filipino crowd.

The fans waited through three "undercard" fights before the main event began around 9am.

"Pacquiao felt intimidated by Marquez," 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 said. "He lacked speed and power."

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

"This was a very important fight for Pacquiao and the Filipinos here," he 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 got 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."

rruiz@thenational.ae