Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxers of his generation, led Philippine tributes to Muhammad Ali on Saturday, as he joined his fellow countrymen in mourning the American legend’s death.
“We lost a giant today,” Pacquiao, the only man in boxing history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions, said in a statement.
“Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Ali family,” Pacquiao added.
The boxing-crazy Asian nation was the scene of one of Ali’s greatest triumphs, the epic “Thrilla in Manila” on October 1, 1975, when he scored a 14th round technical knockout of Joe Frazier in their third and last fight.
A Manila shopping mall, built near the coliseum that hosted the bout, unfurled a large poster of Ali on Saturday in tribute.
Hours before the family announced Ali’s death, Pacquiao, who won a seat in the country’s Senate in last month’s elections, posted Ali’s picture in his Instagram account and urged fans to “keep Muhammad Ali in your thoughts and prayers”.
President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma told Agence France-Presse:
“Muhammad Ali is a legendary athlete who touched the lives of people from all over the world, including Filipinos who witnessed the ‘Thrilla in Manila’.”
“We mourn the passing of ‘the greatest’ who floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee,” Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta—who keeps a poster of the
“Thrilla in Manila” fight in his office—told Agence France-Presse in a statement.
“He was an icon and an idol to several generations,” said Alliances of Boxing Associations in the Philippines Executive Director Ed Picson, who cheered for Ali more than 40 years ago at the Manila bout.
“As a boxer he dazzled, mesmerized and inspired awe. There will never be anyone like him. He was, is and will always be the greatest,” Picson told.
Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, the reigning World Boxing Organization light flyweight champion, said that he was inspired by Ali’s greatness.
“First condolences to his family. Muhammad Ali inspired us during our early years in
boxing and until now. He was a true model to us and he’ll be missed,” Nietes told The Manila Times on Saturday. “I used to duplicate his style before because I admired him.”
Johnriel Casimero, 26, the International Boxing Federation world flyweight titleholder looks up to Ali as one of the best boxers in the world.
“Rest in peace Muhammad Ali. He was the best boxer of all time. Filipino boxers were inspired by his story and hard work,” said Casimero in a statement sent through his trainer Jhun Agrabio.
“A true great has left us. Muhammad Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit. His legacy will be part of our history for all time,” said Top Rank boss Bob Arum, 84, in a statement sent through his publicist Fred Sternburg.
Arum promoted more Ali fights than any other promoter including the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier in 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum.
“I watched the Olympics in 1960 and I was impressed how Ali battered his Russian opponent to win the gold in the light heavyweight class. It was a great moment,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose Cojuangco Jr., who was then a mayor of Paniqui Tarlac.