[PHOTO AT LEFT - Returning home a hero, Manny Pacquiao acknowledges the cheers from his fans Friday. AFP Photo]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 25, 2006 (MANILA TIMES)  Boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao returned home Friday to a hero’s welcome following his win over Mexico’s Erik Morales in Las Vegas last Saturday.

Tens of thousands of adoring fans poured into the streets to see Pacquiao at a parade around Manila.

Waving to crowds, the 27-year-old southpaw tied up traffic for hours.

Pacquiao’s win over Morales on Saturday was his third bout against the 29-year-old former WBC super bantamweight world champion, two-time WBC featherweight world champion and WBC super featherweight world champion.

Pacquiao told a Manila city hall news conference he planned to “celebrate a Philippine win” before considering his next options.

He is now ranked the top challenger to Mexican champion Marco Antonio Barrera in the World Boxing Council (WBC) list and the number-two challenger to World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Edwin Valero.

“I might get a shot at Barrera in March,” he told President Arroyo in an audience at Malacañang.

“Manny will always be our hero, the bearer of the Filipino dream of winning the good fight in all fields of human endeavor,” the President said. “He will always be the people’s champ for toughness, discipline, hard work and the ability to beat the odds.”

Asked if he planned to pursue a political career, Pacquiao told reporters: “I am not thinking of that at this time.”

There has been talk here that the boxer, who turns 28 next month, will run for vice-mayor of Manila in next May’s local elections.

Pacquiao’s motorcade started from City Hall and took him through Santa Cruz, Binondo, Recto Avenue, Tondo, San Andres Bukid and Malate.

He also attended Mass at Quiapo Church.

Sharing the spotlight with him in the caravan were Mayor Lito Atienza, Manila’s Sports Council Chairman Ali Atienza and Councilor Miles Roces.

Pacquiao also continued to evade questions about the legal conflict between two promoters whom he signed contracts with.

He said he would issue a formal statement only after a case had been filed in court.

In September the retired boxing champion Oscar de la Hoya corroborated that Pacquiao signed a seven-fight arrangement with his Golden Boy Promotions.

Pacquiao later signed a blockbuster four-year contract with another promoter, Bob Arum.

He got a guaranteed $3 million for Saturday’s fight.

In the evening, the Manila government also hosted a victory party for Pacquiao at the Raja Sulayman Park on Roxas Boulevard. --AFP and Jesse Edep

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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