PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will not be in Las Vegas on Sunday to watch eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao fight reigning world welterweight champion Jessie Vargas.
But, as always, he will be with the fighting Filipino Senator in spirit.
“I will pray for him. I always do,” the President told reporters on Tuesday night at the Roman Catholic cemetery in Davao City.
Coming out of retirement, the 37-year old Pacquiao will meet the Mexican-American titleholder who is 10 years younger and almost half a foot taller.
Despite Vargas's age and height advantage over Pacquiao, Duterte is confident the Filipino boxing legend will come out on top.
"Manny will win," he said of Pacquiao, who holds an impressive record of 58 wins against six losses with two draws compared to Vargas’ 27-1 mark.
Pressed for a fearless forecast, President Duterte said he cannot tell what round but he has a feeling it will end by a knockout with Pacquiao as the winner.
“He has to do it in the first four rounds. Pag umabot ng seven, eight rounds, pagod na yan,” the President, who has followed Pacquiao’s career, said.
“Pag nadaanan ka ng suntok ni Manny, bagsak ka talaga. His power is God-given,” he added.
The President recalled that Pacquiao had been sending him two tickets in each of his fights but he always turned it down.
“Noon pa yan, hindi pa sikat si Manny pinapadalhan ako ng ticket. Magkaibigan talaga kami, pero sabi ko hindi ako makakapunta kasi wala akong pera pero ipagdadasal kita,” he said.
Duterte narrated that during Pacquiao's early days as a professional, the young boxer trained at the ABAP Davao City Gym at the back of the Almendras Gym.
“His fellow boxers, those who spar against Manny, swear that he hits so hard. Pag tinamaan ka daw ni Manny yung joints mo parang maghihiwalay,” he said.
A number of government officials are expected to be at ringside when Pacquiao trades punches with Vargas on Sunday.
Presidential Assistant for Sports Glenn Escandor, a close friend of the legendary boxer, will be watching the fight.
“Let’s pray and cheer for Manny,” Escandor said.