KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews / 15 July) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is among the very important personalities who will be at the ringside when Manny Pacquiao, a senator in his home country, tries to wrest the World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight crown from Argentinian champion Lucas Matthysse on Sunday. Fight time is around 11:15 a.m.
President Duterte arrived here late Saturday night in what his presidential photographer King Rodriguez said is a “private trip.”
Duterte has reportedly met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohammad who is expected to join him at the ringside.
Pacquiao had met with Mahathir on July 12 and invited him to watch the fight alongside Duterte.
“Dr Mahathir told me that he would try his best to come. I am so ready for the fight and I would like to invite the Malaysian people to watch it on Sunday,” Malaysia’s Star Online quoted Pacquiao as saying on July 12.
It will be the first time two head of states will be watching a world boxing championship fight. If the heads of state of Papua New Guinea and Singapore will also watch the fight, which was likewise reported, it will be a politically star-studded boxing match.
The seating arrangements at the VIP section was hastily re-organized with some tickets recalled to accommodate the entourage of both Duterte and Mahathir who are expected to arrive minutes ahead of the main event.
President Duterte has declined requests for interviews, stating his arrival is not an official function but upon the request of Pacquiao.
Although Pacquiao supported former Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 2016 Presidential elections, he has maintained his friendship with Duterte and has become one of the President’s staunchest allies at the Philippine Senate.
Duterte also watched Pacquiao’s fight against Thai Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym at the RMC Gym in Davao City.
Duterte is expected to immediately fly back to Manila after the fight. (Edwin Espejo / contributor)