BRITISH  FANS  AWED,  CHARMED  BY  MANNY

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Hatton in training in file photo. MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, MAY 13, 2009 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - British fans are embracing Manny Pacquiao not just as the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter but as a man who wears his heart on his sleeve – because what you see is what you get.

It was during Pacquiao’s recent promotional tour in London where the Filipino icon swept the hard-to-please British press off their feet. And when he knocked out Manchester’s Ricky Hatton, who once described himself as “the great white hope,” in Las Vegas two weekends ago, Pacquiao won over the British fans with his incredible fighting ability.

Pacquiao was referred to as Clark Kent and Peter Pan by writer Tris Dixon in the highly-respected London weekly trade paper Boxing News (May 1, 2009, issue). The reference to heroic characters spoke volumes of how Pacquiao is regarded in British media.

“He seems smaller than his 5-6 frame would lead you to believe and looks, unbelievably, almost vulnerable in a suit,” wrote Dixon. “It’s a sort of Clark Kent syndrome. Put him in boxing trunks, gloves and boots and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him in the ring. And he might be 30 but he has an ageless, Peter Pan-like quality about him.”

In contrast, the British press has been irreverent towards the disgraced Hitman. Some fans turned mercilessly against Hatton for failing to make good on his promise not to disappoint the legion of about 25,000 diehards who flew all the way to Las Vegas to chant, “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” to the tune of “Winter Wonderland.” Instead, the throng was treated to a dazzling display of Pacquiao firepower that sent Hatton to slumber.

The jokes from unforgiving British fans in the internet evoked a sense of disenchantment, if not displeasure. Hatton has been portrayed as almost a traitor to the British cause – rather unfairly. Surely, Hatton didn’t plan to end the fight the way it did.

Some Hatton jokes – ”Ricky Hatton walked into a library and asked for a book on boxing. The librarian said, ‘Try the ground floor.’” “What’s the difference between a 20-pound note and Hatton? The 20-pound note will last more than two rounds.” “For Hatton’s next fight, his sponsors are thinking about advertising on the soles of his boots.” “I think Hatton did a great job blocking the punches with his face.”

But it wasn’t the first time that a British champion fell victim to a Filipino in a world title fight. Flyweight champion Pancho Villa did it twice – over Jimmy Wilde in 1923 and Frankie Ash in 1924. So did another Filipino flyweight titlist Salvador (Dado) Marino, both over Terry Allen in 1950 and 1951. Frank Cedeno knocked out Charlie Magri for the WBC flyweight title in 1983 and Eric Jamili stopped Mickey Cantwell for the WBO minimumweight crown in 1997. With Pacquiao’s victory over Hatton, the count is now the Philippines seven and the UK, five in head-to-head world title fight wins.

Wilde and Magri are considered British ring legends despite their defeats to Filipinos and their life stories are immortalized in books. There were at least two books on Hatton published before he faced Pacquiao – it’s unlikely another will be out soon.

During his visit to London, Pacquiao charmed the British press by claiming Scottish ancestry then quoting what Dixon said was a “well-rehearsed” William Wallace monologue “with a decent, and wonderfully surprising, Scottish accent.”

Pacquiao said, “I’m from Scotland – my hero is William, William Wallace and we’re fighting for freedom.” Wallace, of course, was the 14th century Scottish freedom fighter whose story was the basis of the film “Braveheart” starring Mel Gibson.

“Pacquiao’s charm offensive pays off every time,” said Dixon. “He talks to the media with a twinkle in his eye, as if he enjoys engaging with people rather it being a chore. He is a man of the people. When he strips to the waist in a Las Vegas ring, a nation will stand still and hold its breath.”

Pacquiao told the British press he will be back in London “as a tourist.”

Dixon said one British writer asked if Pacquiao wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth since he named his daughter...Queen Elizabeth. Dixon noticed Pacquiao blushing shyly then replying, ‘Yes.”

“That’s Pacquiao – he’s not a ‘me, me, me’ athlete,” continued Dixon. “He is not governed by money or fame. He is just a man who happens to be very good at what he does. For him and certainly his people, it’s not just about the money. It is about doing a nation proud.”

It’s easy to understand why Pacquiao is now not just the property of the Philippines but the pride of the world.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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