Pacquiao's victory cheers typhoon-ravaged Philippines

By Drum Digital
24 November 2013

Thousands of people in a typhoon-devastated Philippine city forgot their misery for a brief moment Sunday as they watched Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao pummel Brandon Rios to clinch victory by unanimous decision.

The survivors of Typhoon Haiyan packed a damaged gymnasium in Tacloban City, the capital of the worst-hit province of Leyte, where television screens were installed to give them a chance to watch the fight live and for free.

Others watched the fight from screens set up on a van outside the City Hall and an elementary school serving as an evacuation centre.

"You are our idol Manny," shouted Ricardo Hermoso, 45, as the gymnasium crowd roared with cheers after Pacquiao was declared the winner via unanimous decision against the plucky American fighter.

Half-naked children jumped around the muddied evacuation centre, doing shadow boxing, mimicking national hero Pacquiao.

"I want to be like Pacman when I grow up," said 8-year-old Cris Marabella as he punched his friend on the left shoulder.

Pacquiao went into the ring with a promise to millions of people displaced by the storm that he would fight for them. It was his first win after back-to-back losses to American boxer Timothy Bradley and Mexican slugger Juan Manuel Marquez.

The 34-year-old Filipino dominated Rios from the start of their bout in Macau, never giving him a chance to put up a good fight. He was never threatened by Rios throughout the bout.

In the sixth round, Pacquiao opened up a cut on Rios' eyelid and turned the face of the 27-year-old fighter into a puffy and bloodied mess by the end of the fight.

Some were disappointed that Pacquiao did not knock out Rios, but were still thankful for the momentary distraction from the grief and destruction brought by Haiyan, which flattened cities and towns in the eastern Philippines on November 8.

"It would have been better if Manny knocked out Rios," said Elson Reynante, 35, who was still limping due to a cut on his right leg after it was hit by corrugated sheet at the height of the typhoon.

"But it's okay, all is well. Thank you Manny. We are proud of you," he said before leaving the park.

The death toll in Haiyan's devastation has reached 5,235, with 1,613 still missing, according to the national disaster relief agency. More than 23,000 were also injured.

More than 4 million people were displaced by the typhoon, which destroyed or damaged more than 1 million houses. Damage to infrastructure and agriculture has been estimated to be at least 22.65 (526.74 million dollars).

International aid was continuing to pour in for the victims of Haiyan as well as reconstruction efforts for the ravaged areas. Britain said it was sending six more planes carrying tons of aid, while China has dispatched its hospital ship to Tacloban.

-SAPA

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