Letter from my father, T. Valentino Sitoy Jr., retired history professor, on the May 3 Pacquiao-Hatton fight in Las Vegas. Oh yes, the Sitoys are big Pacquiao fans too.
"... The four of us watched the fight. Earlier on Fia (7) was asleep but she woke up just in time for the second round. Bea (10) was there all along. The whole morning from 7:00 a.m., your Mama was already on the TV looking for the right channel, and was very much pissed off when she would find no coverage of the fight. It was to be on GMA, not the usual ABS-CBN. Fortunately, your Mama at 10:30 a.m. found it just as it was starting with the undercard fights. From then on, we had GMA-7 channel on till the fight..
"The undercard fights were good. But your Mama and Bea were waiting for Manny. Both got bored with the three-hour long undercard bouts. Then, there were two brown-outs. The last one came just three or four minutes before the Pacman-Hitman fight was to come on.
"This was probably Manny’s most awaited fight. There were 50 Philippine congressmen who braved the swine flu just to be there. There were Filipino screen stars too like Richard and Lucy Gomez. Among the US personalities, there was Jack Nicholson, Mariah Carey, Mark Wahlberg, and many actors and famous people. You can be sure the classmates Bill Clinton and GMA were glued to their respective TVs.
"In the Philippines , everyone was on TV. Pay per view restaurants were full everywhere, even in Dumaguete. A free entrance gym in Quezon City accommodating 500 had 1,000 people in it, with thousands more outside. The latter were finally asked to go home and watch the fight there. In Manila , there was “zero traffic” – it looked like Sunday dawn. Four-lane EDSA had three lanes completely empty; the side lane having only three or four vehicles. The army also went to rest – no fights with Abu Sayyaf, who were I presume watching TV too. The police had a holiday. Through the day yesterday, no crime was committed in all Metro Manila. I guess the pickpockets were busy using their eyes rather than their hands. The three typhoons in early May (climate change, indeed) were also on hold. There was one (Crising) in the South China Sea yesterday, and another today, while another on the Pacific coast of Luzon (Dante) is still hovering east of Bicol.
"When Martin Nievera, the first time a man sang the Philippine anthem in any of Manny’s bouts, sang Lupang Hinirang, he sang the first bar slowly … paused, and then sang the rest in brisk tempo (the regulated 60 seconds flat), until the last bar when, like U.S. singers, he held his last bar and sang it crooner style. Then a very brief announcement was flashed. Martin Nievera’s rendition of the anthem had been approved by the National Historical Institute.
"In the first round, Ricky Hatton came on strong. Very aggressive. Pushed Manny back and into the ropes, at one time. Hatton also had the habit of holding Manny with his left, and then pounding Manny’s ribs with his strong right. Very bad. In the last third of the first round, Ricky Hatton did that again, which made Manny mad. You know it, because Manny for a moment stretched out his arms, and then brought his gloves together in a loud thump. In the last 30 seconds, Manny caught Hatton with a right, and very unexpectedly Hatton dropped, who was nakaluhod on his right. Pandemonium everywhere, including the Sitoy gym, when Bea and Lola raised their arms with a shout. Fia at this time was still asleep. In replays in various TV channels showing the audience – Manila , Cebu, Davao , General Santos, everywhere – Manny’s fans went wild with dancing and shouting.
"Hatton got up immediately. Then about 20 seconds later, with about six seconds to spare, Manny again hit with another right, pushing Hatton against the ropes and then on his back. He was given a count of six. Then in the last second after the bell rang, as Manny was already beginning to turn away, Hatton swung, still part of the round, but Manny safely backed away.
"Pictures of people watching after that first round show everyone all stirred up. Then the second round (Fia now awake). It was again Manny’s round, but Hatton had this dangerous tendency of being able to come back strong. The announcer said it, but it was obvious to those watching, that Ricky Hatton did not bring in any new strategy. He still comes barreling in, as in his previous fights. They had a fierce exchange. Hatton got the worse of it, though he also could hit Manny now and then. You just hope that Manny does not get careless. In the last 10 seconds of the second round, it was Ricky who got careless. He was watching Manny’s right (the one that floored him twice before), and for a split second opened the right side of his body. That was when Manny in a flash came with a strong left hook – Manny is left-handed – and hit Hatton squarely on the right jaw. Ka-blag! The British Hitman was on his back, out cold! It took minutes to revive him.
"The Filipinos everywhere did their crazy dance. I think it is the Pacquiao knock-out dance craze... Cebu TV has a new term – si Hatton gipalukapa ni Manny. The Cebuanos are also saying, just at this very minute, that Muhammad Ali has been called the “greatest fighter ever.” Now, they are asking, is Manny now not the “greatest fighter ever” with six belts to his credit.
"Now, everywhere in Philippine TV, the mesmerizing last 10 seconds of the 2nd round, as well as the two first-round knockdowns, are played and replayed. There is some pity for the Hitman. The one people are angry with is Floyd Mayweather, Sr., Hatton’s trainer, who had been such a foul-mouth, attacking Manny, calling him a easy push-over, and calling Freddie Roach, Manny’s trainer, a cockroach – this on TV. After the fight, Mayweather was nowhere to be seen. He later said that Hatton lost because he did not follow his advice. I had wanted to see his face after the fight, because it always feels good to see boastful people eat their own words.
"Now, the new challenger is Floyd Maywearther Junior, who had retired but is now coming back into the ring.
"As to Manny, he is the Philippines ’ number one hero, the only one who could suspend war fighting and prevent crimes and traffic jams. In Sulu, for the first time, the governor set up a free TV screen, for all people to see. In the war zone, also the commanding Army colonel put up a pay-per-view TV screen for the soldiers and local people. One MNLF unit also came in, and watched the bout along with the armymen.
"As to the world, everybody knows that the top dog in boxing is Manny Pacman Pacquiao. Yes, you can wear your Manny T-shirt proudly."