Hero’s welcome still awaits Pacquiao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — Despite losing his welterweight title in Sunday’s controversial match in Las Vegas, a hero’s welcome still awaits boxing sensation and Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao when he returns home to this city in the next few days.

General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said Pacquiao, who grew up in this city, remained the champion in the eyes and hearts of residents here and believes he successfully defended his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight belt against controversial winner American Timothy Bradley.

“It wasn’t even close. You heard the crowd, a lot were unconvinced that Manny lost,” the mayor told reporters.

Custodio, South Cotabato’s 1st district Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. and other city officials watched Sunday’s fight along with some 7,000 residents at the city gymnasium in Barangay Lagao here.

The crowd at the city gymnasium, which was opened by the local government for the free live viewing of the fight, roared with lively cheers as Pacquiao, Sarangani’s lone district representative to Congress, pummeled Bradley with his power punches starting from the opening bell of the 12-round fight.

But they later emerged from the building in reserved silence, clearly dissatisfied with the split decision issued by the three ringside judges in favor of Bradley.

Bradley, who rose to become WBO’s light welterweight title with a clean record, won 115-113 in the score cards of two judges. The third judge saw Pacquiao winning the match 115-113.

Yahoo! Sports reporter Kevin Iole described the fight as “unfair, unjust and just plain wrong.

He noted that Yahoo! Sports scored it 117-111 for Pacquiao and majority of the reporters who covered it at ringside also counted a win for Pacquiao, who had his seven-year winning streak snapped.

World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman called the decision “theft of the century” while boxing legend Oscar dela Hoya said Bradley should have returned the welterweight belt to Pacquiao.

Local sportswriter and boxing analyst Edwin Espejo said he saw it 11 rounds for Pacquiao and only one for Bradley. “I was surprised with the split decision. Some miracle possibly happened there,” he said in a radio interview.

Pacquiao immediately called for a November rematch with Bradley but his promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank was quoted in a separate Yahoo! Sports report that a second faceoff would be unlikely “unless Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto launches an investigation.”

Rep. Acharon said Pacquiao deserves a rematch with Bradley and believes his colleague will eventually “win it again.”

“It’s just proper to have a rematch to straighten things out,” he said.

Pacquiao’s mother Dionisia, who had repeatedly called for his retirement in the past, changed her tune this time and also batted for a rematch with Bradley.

“Tanggapin na lang natin na natalo siya pero dahil sa daya ng score. Kaya dapat din may rematch”  (Let’s just accept that he lost the fight but it was also because he was cheated. So there should be a rematch), she said.

Liza Onding, Pacuiao’s sister, supported their mother’s rematch call saying there were many things that happened on Sunday that should be corrected.

“When you’re the champion, the challenger should be the one chasing you and try to knock you down. (But) what we saw in that fight was different,” she added in the vernacular. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)