Boxing fans in the Philippines cried foul and groaned in bitter disappointment yesterday, as national hero Manny Pacquiao lost to American rival Floyd Mayweather in the “Fight of the Century”.
Filipinos filled gymnasiums, cinemas and bars as the South-east Asian nation of 100 million people stopped for Pacquiao’s battle with Mayweather in Las Vegas, which he lost in a unanimous points decision.
A devastated Pacquiao said immediately afterwards that he thought he had won, and many at home agreed with him as they lashed out at the judges while heaping praise on their inspiration.
“Pacquiao was cheated. Mayweather didn’t land a single solid punch,” said cable television technician Romeo Rivera, 41.
Mr Rivera was among thousands of mostly poor people who had gathered in the main public square of Manila’s Marikina suburb to watch the battle on a giant screen mounted on the back of a flatbed truck.
In the southern port city of Zamboanga, loud boos echoed inside an army gymnasium where thousands of soldiers and their relatives watched Pacquiao receive just the sixth defeat of his career.
“The decision was unfair. From the start, the commentators were for Manny. Everyone is disappointed,” Lieutenant Colonel Noel Precioso said as others nearby expressed similar sentiments.
On social media, popular television host and swimsuit model Georgina Wilson expressed outrage to her 2.76 million Twitter followers: “Mayweather did nothing !!!!!!!!!!!!! Such a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Pacquiao, 36, is a unifying figure in a country beset by grinding poverty, natural calamities and corruption. His rags-to-riches story, from high-school dropout to millionaire world boxing champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, is a huge source of hope and pride in the country.
His fights throughout his career have caused the nation to grind to a halt, with nearly everyone stopping to watch them. Famously, even crime has dropped to nearly nothing during Pacquiao’s fights.
President Benigno Aquino said before the Mayweather clash that Pacquiao, who has recorded 57 victories and two draws in his career, was an “inspiration for every Filipino”.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said immediately after the loss that it had not diminished the boxer’s standing.
“Pacquiao is truly the People’s Champ. He fought for respect, not points. He won the hearts of the world,” Mr Lacierda said in a statement.