Philippines great Pacquiao fights for devastated homeland

Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:59am EST
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By Stefanie, McIntyre and Manuel Mogato

MACAU/TACLOBAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao will carry the weight of a nation in mourning when he enters the ring on Sunday in the first major international fight to be held in the gambling capital of Macau.

Just a fortnight after one of the world's worst typhoons smashed into the Philippines, killing more than 5,200 people and leaving millions homeless, Pacquiao has dedicated the fight to his millions of fans back home.

Away from Macau's glitzy resorts in the battered city of Tacloban, Susan Vergara, caretaker of the Tacloban Astrodome which was caught in the center of super storm, says the fight will be beamed live into the arena.

Some 3,000 people left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan have made the stadium their home. The bout will also be broadcast to security forces and aid workers at Tacloban's city hall and airport, where many residents are also expected to gather.

"The Pacquiao fight gives us inspiration even though we have been suffering from the typhoon. I hope he wins," said on resident, Vergara, 50.

Eight-weight Pacquiao, who is also a congressman from Sarangani Province, told Reuters this week the tragedy was inspiring him to succeed. "My countrymen, I want to make them happy. To bring honor to my country."

Pacquiao will also be fighting for his career when he takes on American Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios and seeks to re-establish himself as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

Two straight defeats, the second a brutal sixth round knockout by old foe Juan Manuel Marquez last December, prompted pundits and fans to suggest retirement for Filipino great.   Continued...

Brandon Rios (2nd R) of the U.S. and Manny Pacquiao (front, 3rd L) of the Philippines pose after an official weigh-in for their World Boxing Organisation (WBO) International 12-round welterweight boxing title fight at the Venetian Macao hotel in Macau November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu