x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE fans turn out in droves for Pacquiao

Filipinos throughout the UAE rose early this morning to catch the fight between their hero Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey ... and they were not disappointed.

ABU DHABI // Woodrow Mangalino, a nurse at the Gulf Diagnostic Centre Hospital in Abu Dhabi, arrived at Khalidiya Mall at 4am today to watch the televised boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey. Almost six hours later he finally left, pleased by another victory for the worldwide sensation they call Pacman. "It was another great fight for Manny Pacquiao," he said. "With all the corruption and dirty politics in our country, he's one of the reasons why I'm still proud to be a Filipino." Mr Mangalino, 32, requested the day off a month in advance so he could watch the seven-time world champion and current World Boxing Organisation welterweight king. He and more than 200 other boxing fans, mostly Filipinos, gathered at the mall to watch the fight on big-screen TVs. "It's Pacman Day," Mr Mangalino said. "He will always serve as an inspiration to every Filipino living and working overseas and those back home." Most fans had arrived at the mall by 6am and waited impatiently through the preliminary fights before the main event began around 8.45am. The fight was telecast live from Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. Mr Mangalino and his friends were throwing punches in the air and ducking their heads with each punch Pacquiao rained down on Clottey. Filipinos and a few Arabs and Americans sat around tables at the Goto King restaurant which installed four large overhead projectors and six flat-screen TV screens especially for the event. Wild roars erupted when Pacquiao won by unanimous decision at the end of the 12th round. "Pacquiao is a national hero to all Filipinos," said the managing director, Ashraf al Barkawi, who is originally from Jordan, as he stood bemused by the tense atmosphere. "In the Philippines, I imagine that when there's a fight, they momentarily forget that they don't have money or food. "When I was in Manila two years ago, I saw Manny being greeted by thousands of fans and well-wishers at the airport. I have been a fan for the past three years; he always wins and he makes people happy." Saeed Shalabi, 29, a Jordanian accountant in Abu Dhabi who arrived at 6am, said: "I've been in the country for six months and it is so nice to see Filipinos gather here to watch the fight. He's definitely a hero." "I've always been a Pacquiao fan," said Janice Piape, 26, a hotel receptionist who wore a specially-designed sports jacket with the colours of the Philippine flag. "Not only because he's Filipino but he's good and he's a real fighter. "In the Philippines, there's zero crime whenever there's a Pacquiao fight. I hope it stays that way." "Pacquiao's influence is stronger than our local politicians and celebrities because he rose from poverty and we revere him for his talent inside the ring," said Buddy Suarez, 33, a cook at a coffee shop in Abu Dhabi. "I hope he doesn't enter politics; it isn't for him." Benjie Rayray, 43, a personal trainer in Abu Dhabi who has been in the country for 20 years, said he had watched Pacquiao's 11 previous fights. "Clottey's flexibility and speed was poor compared to Pacquiao's," he said. "We were expecting a knockout between the fourth and sixth round. Anyway, Pacquiao scored well and we enjoyed the fight." Ron Wherry, 28, an engineer who is originally from North Carolina, arrived at 6am but had to leave shortly before the fight started. "I'm so mad at myself," he said. "I wish I could've made it. I want to see the reaction of the people here. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I love him; he's an outstanding fighter. He's very good, he's very fast." His friend, Chris Henry, 43, a site manager from Houston, Texas, stayed behind to see Pacquiao trade punches with Clottey. "It was pretty even," he said at the end of the 12th round. "Clottey had to do more to prove that he could beat Pacquiao." It was a scene repeated in other parts of the Emirates. "The fight was shown at several restaurants in Abu Dhabi and in the other Emirates and I'm sure most Filipinos took some time off to watch Pacquiao retain his welterweight title," Mr Rayray said. More than 200 fans turned up at Rocky's Cafe in the Regent Palace Hotel in Dubai, according to Fred Miranda, 56, a liason officer of the Filipino television network ABS-CBN's The Filipino Channel, which telecast the fight on pay-per-view. "It wasn't as exciting as last year's fight with Cotto," he said. "People expected Pacquiao to win of course, but they wanted a knock out victory for him.

rruiz@thenational.ae