MACAU – Boxing star Manny Pacquiao arrived in this vibrant city on Monday night not only looking for redemption, but likewise carrying the hopes of a nation still reeling from the ravaged brought about by a killer earthquake and one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded in history.
The 34-year-old Filipino came over aboard a 100-seater private plane from General Santos City where he encamped the past 10 weeks in training for his comeback fight against American Brandon Rios this Saturday at the Cotain Arena inside the Venetian Hotel.
With Pacquiao for the two-hour flight here are members of his team including head trainer Freddie Roach, assistants Buboy Fernandez, Nonoy Neri, and Marvin Somodio, along with the usual big entourage that has always been present in every fight of the eight-division world champion.
The 12-round bout at welterweight serves as the comeback fight of the Filipino boxing icon since an 11-month hiatus following his stunning sixth-round knockout at the hands of longtime Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last December.
It also comes exactly two weeks after super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Visayas region that left thousands people dead and caused damages to property worth more than P10 billion.
Pacquiao, also a congressman from the lone district of Sarangani, already expressed his concern about the devastation brought about by the calamity and was actually planning to personally extend his help to those severely affected, but was prevented from doing so by Roach considering the proximity of the disaster to the fight schedule.
Instead, the former world’s best pound-for-pound fighter is dedicating his fight against Rios to his badly-affected countrymen.
At the same time, Pacquiao is looking to bounce back and reclaim his lofty billing as one of the world’s elite fighters following successive losses last year against Marquez and Timothy Bradley.
Rios has been here as early as last week as he tries to acclimatize to the different time zone.