By EDDIE ALINEA, WENDEL ALINEA and ALFRED GABOT
LAS VEGAS/MANILA – In a shocker, Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas upset world boxing icon and fighting Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao before a sell-out crowd at the TM Mobile Arena in Las Vegas last Sunday.
But despite the loss, support for Pacquiao poured from all over the Americas, the Philippines and elsewhere.
The loss, however, sent hints that Pacquiao could finally hang up his gloves even as others, including experts who still believe in his boxing prowess express the hope that he would still have at least one or two more fights.
In Daly City, former Malacanang and sports writer Miguel Genovea Sr. wrote: “Time for Manny Pacquiao, 42, to retire from boxing to prevent more brain damage after losing by unanimous decision against Yordemis Ugas tonight in Las Vegas….Aug. 21, 2021…Tapos na mga maligayan araw nya sa ring. Lahat may katapusan, di ba?..Time to enjoy his earnings with his family.”
In Manila, Malacanang said Pacquiao will always be the Filipino “People’s Champ” despite failing to reclaim the World Boxing Association (WBA) super welterweight belt.
Leaders and members of the Senate headed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and the House of Representatives led by Speaker Lord Alan Velasco and Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza where he was once a part also lauded Pacquiao for continuing to be a hero and inspiration for Filipinos.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque acknowledged that public support to Pacquiao’s boxing career has always been “unwavering”, including his latest fight against Ugas.
“The boxing icon’s loss in Las Vegas would not diminish the honors he bestowed to our country and the joy he gave to our people,” he said in a press statement.
He said Pacquiao will always hold a special place in the hearts of every Filipino.
“Senator Pacquiao will forever be etched in the hearts of Filipinos as our People’s Champ. Mabuhay ka, Manny (Long live, Manny)!” he added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for one said, it is still proud of the reservist Pacquiao for showing perseverance despite the odds during the match. Pacquiao is now a full Colonel from master sergeant when he started after finishing the General Staff course.
In a statement, AFP spokesperson, Army Col. Ramon Zagala, said Pacquiao, a military reservist, had “nothing more to prove” in boxing having won major world titles in eight different weight divisions.
“We are proud of our champion, for even in defeat he has inspired and shown our soldiers the value of fighting for your country to the end,” said AFP spokesman Army Co. Ramon Zagala said. “Our eight-division world champion, senator, and brother in the reserve force has nothing more to prove for he has already won the hearts and minds of every Filipino around the world.”
The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), in a separate statement, also expressed pride in Pacquiao for putting up a “good fight” against the 35-year-old Cuban fighter.
“His loss may be unexpected to a nation still euphoric over a sterling Olympic performance of our athletes but the outcome did not diminish our respect to the man who brought so much honor to the country and put the Philippines in the sporting map around the globe,” the PDP-Laban said.
Pacquiao brought honor and world renown to the Philippines, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
“Thank you, Manny; if called to testify in the Senate will do it face-to-face to make Mano to you by pressing your fist on my brow. The Philippine national hero. Jose Rizal was shot; you fired pretty good shots yourself. The score testifies to your fighting skill but Ugas’s prime,” he said.
Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan, a former colleague of Pacquiao in the Senate, also sent his support to the boxer.
“Nananatili ka pa ring tunay na kampeon sa puso ng bawat Pilipino. Mabuhay ka aming People’s Champion! (You remain a true champion in the heart of every Filipino. Long live the People’s Champion!),” he said.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Pacquiao was still his champion.
“He is still my champion! He made the Filipino proud!” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said Pacquiao would always be the “champion we always love and admire.”
“Manny Pacquiao is and will always be the People’s Champ who has brought unprecedented honor to our country. I don’t think there will be another boxer in the world who can equal his feat. At least not in 100 years. That, plus his big heart for the poor and the downtrodden,” he said.
“Thank you to my fellow Senator and Mindanaoan, Manny Pacquiao, for putting up a gallant fight against reigning WBA (Super) welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas,” said Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.
“Nothing to be ashamed of for Manny he gave it his all; Ugas fought a smart fight,” Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said.
Senator Joel Villanueva echoed Lacson, saying the Filipino people remains proud of Pacquiao.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he was proud of the Filipino boxer as his “kumpadre, as a colleague, as a Filipino.”
“Sen. Manny Pacquiao may not have brought home this title, but he has once again proved himself a legendary fighter—the best athlete we have ever had, and the world has ever seen,” he said.
“After decades of victories in the ring, he continues to improve and to challenge himself, and to fight with the same spirit and humility he had as a an amateur boxer… I am so proud of him, as his Salamat, Sen. Manny!”
The boxer-turned-senator had “fought a brave fight & he can hold his head up high anywhere,” according to Senator Richard Gordon.
“He fought a 25 month layoff and vs a taller hungrier Ugas. He has already and truly earned the eternal respect of the world. We are ever proud of him,” he said.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, meantime, lauded Pacquiao for a “gallant competitive world championship fight.”
“Pinakita niya ang katapangan at kahusayan ng pusong Pilipino sa larangan ng sports na puwede din natin magamit sa ibang aspeto ng buhay. Siyempre congratulations din kay Ugas na ipinakita sa mundo na siya ay isang tunay at deserving na world champion sa kanyang weight division,” he said.
“Senator Manny Pacquiao has nothing left to prove in the boxing ring. He will forever remain the People’s Champ, our Pambansang Kamao. We’re still proud of you, Manny!” said House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
“A mandirigma [warrior], he will continue to be the country’s living legend. When he comes back, we hope that Pacman the legislator will now focus his energy in our country’s fight to defeat this grave crisis aggravated by the Covid pandemic, including his crusade to knock out corruption in the government. Padayon, Manny,” House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said.
In a battle pitting boxers who saw their original opponents backing out due to various eye injuries, the 42-year-old Pacquiao looked sluggish in his first bout in two years, and the 35-year-old Ugas banked on his reach advantage to connect jabs eventually swelled Pacquiao’s face a bit early on.
The fighting senator would put up a gallant fight, even turning the jets early into Round 10, but Ugas closed out the match on a strong note, delivering haymakers to Pacquiao in the final two periods.
Two judges had it 116-112, while the third juror scored the bout 115-113 all in favor of Ugas, who moved up to 27-4.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, fell to 62-8-2.
This also put the rescheduling of his postponed fight against World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation champ, Errol Spence, in further peril as a possibility of an Ugas-Spence bout for the undisputed welterweight king status now surfaces.
Meanwhile, Mark Magsayo inched closer to a world title shot by stopping Mexican opponent Julio Ceja in an undercard match.
Magsayo knocked Ceja out in the 10th round of their scheduled 12-round WBC featherweight title eliminator.