Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is interviewed by GMA-7 during his long bus ride to Los Angeles. ABAC CORDERO LOS ANGELES]

LOS ANGELES, MAY 5, 2009 (STAR) Manny Pacquiao left Las Vegas late Sunday afternoon, and left Ricky Hatton’s future hanging in the cold Nevada air.

Less than 24 hours following his earth-shaking knockout of the British superstar, Pacquiao boarded the huge bus that bore his images, and headed back to LA with his family and close friends.

It took longer than usual for Pacquiao to get to his La Palazzo apartment here, as the Sunday traffic along desert highways got in the way. From four hours, the journey stretched to six hours.

When it was time for a 30-minute stop-over at Barstow, Pacquiao glanced at his Nokia cellphone to find 83 missed calls and more than a hundred text messages. He checked each of them as he enjoyed a chocolate ice cream bar.

“You see? That’s just nearly three hours, and look at all these missed calls and text messages,” he said.

While on the bus, Pacquiao had flashbacks of the fight that didn’t last long.

Seated on the backend of the bus, and surrounded by sportswriters, the world’s greatest boxer today said the moment he landed the left hook during the closing seconds of the second round, he knew it was over.

He couldn’t have thrown the punch a better way. It left Hatton sprawled on the floor for a couple of minutes, his family crying at ringside, and sent him straight to the hospital instead of the post-fight press conference.

Hatton underwent brain scan at the Valley Hospital, and stayed just for an hour before being cleared.

“I was hit a lot. The last punch which put me out was a great shot. I know I’ll be okay. I have felt worse after 12 tough rounds,” Hatton was quoted as saying.

“Naawa talaga ako sa kanya (I pitied him),” was Pacquiao’ initial reaction after watching the tape of the fight Sunday morning following a Mass attended by more than a hundred.

“Nag-roll ang mga mata niya (His eyes rolled),” added the Pinoy superstar, who had the fight shown once more inside the bus that carried around more than 30 persons, including his wife, Jinkee, and mother, Dionisia.

“When I hit him with that last punch, I knew he’d never get up. I know a good punch. Solid na solid eh. I really pitied him but what can I do? I didn’t want the fight to last,” he continued in Filipino.

Pacquiao said he got a call from President Arroyo after the fight, and was told that Friday, the day he arrives in Manila, has been declared a non-working holiday.

“She was happy,” said Pacquiao.

If the fight lasted longer, Pacquiao said it would have been more interesting, because he was ready for anything Hatton would throw at him.

“To me, it didn’t hurt when he hit me in the body. And he never landed a good one to the head,” said Pacquiao, who lifted his shirt, and had scribes feeling his abs, made rock-hard by more than 2,000 crunches a day.

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said Hatton may be better off if he stays off the ring.

“He is well off, he has his family and he doesn’t need to go through anything like this again. Very few fighters are ever the same after taking a knockout this bad. This was devastating,” he said.

The boxer’s father, Ray, said “it’s all up to him.”

Floyd Mayweather Sr. seemed to have burned the bridges with Hatton when he said, “Ricky lost because he didn’t do what I told him. He didn’t keep his hands up. I also told him not to fight so aggressively from the start. I can’t fight for him. He should retire.”

Reports of infighting within the Hatton camp broke out just days before the fight, and Internet reports said it had something to do with the trainer coming in late for some sessions.

Pacquiao said he managed to share some words with Hatton up the ring after the knockout.

“I told him we’re still friends. I told him it was a good fight. It was fine with him. He said ‘Thank you.’” said Pacquiao. – Abac Cordero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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