Boxing: Pacquiao fighting for his nation

After tonight's world title fight with Cotto, revered Filipino will run for Congress

Each time Manny Pacquiao fights, his beloved Philippines falls silent in anticipation and respect for the tiny man that is being groomed to one day become the President.

Pacquiao fights Puerto Rico's Miguel Angel Cotto for the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title in the early hours of tomorrow morning at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and the Philippine idol could become a champion at a sixth weight, but victory would also prove that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

At ringside there will be dozens of Filipino politicians, all desperate for the fighter's blessing and aware that he has announced that he will run for a Congressional seat in the Philippines next year. In May, when he beat Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas, the high-ranking men in tailored suits and golden ties surrounded him for hours, thrusting mobiles in his face for him to talk to various people back in Manila.

It is, according to Bob Arum, the veteran promoter, hard to imagine just how popular Pacquiao is in his home country. "I was with Muhammad Ali and he never had this type of devotion – this kid is the biggest thing in the Philippines and everybody wants a piece of him," Arum said.

There are claims that during his fights a ceasefire exists when the military and the communist guerrillas sit down to watch him. Some people believe that Pacquiao is a modern saint, descended from the Maharlikan people, who were conquered by the Spanish 500 years ago. He carried their flag at the Beijing Olympics, and it is written in Philippine law that the army must protect him, his wife and their four children in any emergency.

"The Philippines has the best social welfare system in the world and it is called Manny Pacquiao," added Arum. After a fight Pacquiao has hundreds of people waiting outside his mansion for him to share the money in a traditional Filipino method of aid, which is called balato. The money (about £3) often comes in a bag with some rice and sardines, and Pacquiao hands it over personally. "It happens every single day and all day," Arum said.

A few months ago, at a pub in Manchester, Pacquiao and Hatton played darts. It was not much of a match, but Pacquiao sat down at the end and told a story about leaving home when he was 12, living on the streets and first taking up boxing. Somebody asked why he had left home so young. "My dad cook my dog," he replied. His father needed to feed the family and the stray that the young Manny had found and fed was skinned, flavoured and served.

It will be difficult for Pacquiao tonight because Cotto can be an excellent counter-puncher and will not fold like Oscar De La Hoya, who suddenly became an old man in the ring last year or rush out wild like Hatton did. However, Pacquiao has the speed and the support of about 90 million devoted Filipino fans, and that gives him a unique edge in any fight.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower