Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has always dedicated his fights to the Filipino people, especially since some of them were held in times of either disaster or adversity.
The senator’s bout with Australian fighter Jeff Horn is no exception as he faces him at a time when Marawi City is under siege from the Maute group, Islamist extremists seeking to establish an independent state in the Mindanao region.
Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, public affairs chief of the Philippine Army, said that soldiers were “solidly behind the boxing champ”.
”He dedicated his fight to our heroes fighting the Maute–ISIS terrorists in Marawi. It will boost our soldiers morale,” said Tiongson, adding, “Win or lose, we will support Manny.”
Pacquiao is a reservist with a rank of lieutenant colonel in the Philippine Army, where he became a member of its reserve force in April 2006.
At the same time, Tiongson said the Philippine Army would provide free viewing to its enlisted personnel and civilian employees, retired officers and wounded soldiers at the Army Gym, Army Officers Clubhouse and Army General Hospital at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City respectively.
Army camps nationwide will also be providing free viewing to the general public. Civilians are welcome to enter the headquarters, as long as “they will not deprive the priorities”.
Pacquiao and Horn are set to face off at the 50,000-capacity Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. At stake is the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown, which Pacquiao currently holds.
Pacquiao has a record of 59-6-2 with 38 knockouts from his previous fights while Horn, on the other hand, has a record of 16 wins, one draw and 11 knockouts.
In 2013, Pacquiao was scheduled to fight US boxer Brandon Rios in Macau on November 24. A week before the event, Supertyphoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan), considered by weather experts as the strongest typhoon to hit land in recent history, devastated Eastern Visayas. Over 3,000 people died and about 2 million people were left homeless in the disaster.
Pacquiao dedicated his fight to the victims of Yolanda who momentarily forgot their plight as they cheered on the then congressman who handily defeated Rios.
A Pacquiao match has always guaranteed a crime-free day as even the criminals take a break to watch him, according to police.
As Pacquiao faces Horn on Sunday, will government troops and the Maute terrorists in Marawi lay down their arms momentarily in an unspoken ceasefire to watch and cheer the boxer who continues to hold his countrymen captive every time he enters the ring? Perhaps. DEMPSEY REYES