[PHOTO - The couple’s gift to Muhammad Ali was a painting created by Pinoy artist Jun Aquino]

By MAUREEN MARIE BELMONTE - Sarangani representative and eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao believes that someone ought to be held accountable for the mobbing of Filipino boxer Jonriel Casimero and his team after a boxing bout in Mar del Plata, Argentina on Feb. 11.

According to the Philippine embassy in Buenos Aires, Casimero, his trainer Christopher Tepor, and boxing manager and promoter, Samson Gello-Aniwere, were attacked for 10 minutes by fight fans after the Filipino lifted the IBF super-flyweight title from Argentinian fighter Luis Alberto Lazarte. The Philippine flag was likewise trampled on during the incident.

A previous Manila Bulletin report dated Feb. 15 noted that the Senate rose to Casimero’s defense, with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile calling on the Ambassador of Argentina to the Philippines to “explain why his people have the temerity to assault the flag, the honor, the dignity of this country represented by our boxer who went to that country thinking that it is a civilized country, and not a country of abnormal, uncivilized people.’’

Pacquiao, meanwhile, said in a taped “Unang Hirit” interview aired on Monday that, “Do’n sa naging laban ni Casimero sa Argentina dapat imbestigahan nang mabuti ‘yon kung sino ang managot, paano nagkagulo at bakit hindi na-control ng mga pulis o nung mga bantay doon sa event na ‘yon [‘yung mga tao].”

An icon’s birthday

On a lighter and celebratory note, the “UH” report noted that Pacman, together with his wife Jinkee Pacquiao, hobnobbed with big sports icons and Hollywood stars in the recently concluded 70th birthday party-cum-charity event for boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

The Pacquiaos graced the lavish gala held at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb 18 [US Time], bearing their gift to the boxing icon—a painting created by Pinoy artist Jun Aquino.

Aside from the Pacquiaos, among the prizefighter’s other guests were Andre Agassi, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Samuel Jackson, Cindy Crawford, Stevie Wonder, Bob Arum, Terrence Howard, David Beckham, Anthony Hopkins, and Lenny Kravitz.

To cap off the star-studded party, Ali received a video message from US President Barack Obama telling him that he “shocked the world” and “inspired it too.”

Ali is suffering from Parkinson’s disease; hence the proceeds of the celebration would go to the Cleveland clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which is known for battling against neurological disorders, and to the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural and educational center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Court sidetrip

Apart from attending Ali’s birthday celebration, a separate Manila Bulletin report, also on Feb. 15, mentioned that Pacquiao flew to the US also for his deposition—a sworn testimony taken before a trial—in connection with the grave oral defamation case he filed against the abrasively outspoken American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In the same report, Pacquiao’s deposition was said to be scheduled last Feb. 17. He was also said to have been joined by his American lawyers during the legal proceeding, according to the Filipino fighter’s legal adviser Franklin Gacal.

The case was filed last year, stemming from Mayweather’s statements in which he charged that Pacquiao used performance-enhancing drugs whenever he would train for a fight.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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