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Champ comes home a hero

TO adoring Filipinos, Manny Pacquiao would always be their People’s Champ. That was confirmed early morning on Wednesday when Pacquiao was warmly and emotionally greeted in his return at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport three days after absorbing a shocking knockout loss to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pacquiao arrived with wife Jinkee and his entourage aboard Philippine Airlines Flight PR 103 from Los Angeles.

The eight-division world champion was surprised with the show of support as hundreds gathered inside the arrival area and more were outside the airport to greet him.

“I’m grateful for all your support. As if I didn’t lose and I won the match just seeing a lot of people welcoming me. I’m thankful to everyone’s prayers and support,” Pacquiao told the throng of well-wishers in Filipino.

He assured his Filipino fans that he is in good condition despite being knocked out cold by Marquez in the sixth round of their fourth confrontation on Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“I’m in good condition. I watched the replay of the match and I didn’t know that I went down face first. Being knocked down is part of boxing,” said Pacquiao, who will be celebrating his 33rd birthday on Monday.

He said that he was in control of the fight, despite being knocked down in the third round as based on what he saw on the replay as he was the aggressor in the fight. “I was the one pressuring Marquez and I’m moving great inside the ring.”

“I wanted to give the fans a good fight. [The knockout] comes in a boxer’s career. I am just saddened because the whole country is affected with my knockout loss. I’m still thankful to God that He gave me a strong body,” he added.

Pacquiao vowed to bounce back from his two defeats in 2012—the first to Timothy Bradley in May— as he eyes to fight again in April or May next year.

Jinkee and his mother Dionisia, however, wanted him to retire. Freddie Roach, his future Hall of Fame trainer, on the other hand, is not keen about an April fight.

“Let us not lose hope. We will rise again. I haven’t talked to [Top Rank chairman] Bob Arum but I’ll train harder and be more careful when fighting a counterpuncher like Marquez,” said Pacquiao, who refused to comment on a possible fifth meeting with his Mexican tormentor.

“I am a boxer. Whoever my promoter gives me to fight, I will be ready. I’m going to train and prepare harder. I want my fans to see the old and aggressive Manny Pacquiao. But now, my fighting style will depend on my opponent.”

Jinkee said Pacquiao would still undergo tests at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Pacquiao and his family are expected in General Santos City at 9 a.m. on Thursday, where another hero’s welcome awaits the former pound-for-pound king. From General Santos, they will head to Sarangani for another program with his constituents.

In Photo: Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee are warmly welcomed upon their arrival on Wednesday. (AP)







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