Sadness gripped UAE Filipinos after ‘Fight of the Century’

The first of the fans in Abu Dhabi arrived before 5am to grab their movie tickets and watch minor bouts before the main fight, which started at 7.54am.

People watch the 'Fight of the Century' between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao live at Novo cinemas in the World Trade Centre Mall. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // The “fight of the century” which saw Floyd Mayweather Jr defeat Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous decision in 12 rounds drew mixed reactions from boxing fans in the capital.

As they streamed out of the cinema at the World Trade Centre mall, which was showing the fight live, sadness and disappointment gripped Filipino who witnessed the defeat of their national hero.

“Yes, it’s a sad day for us,” said Dan Godinez, a Filipino engineer in Abu Dhabi. “But Pacquiao will still be a boxing icon, our national hero. He is not only a great boxer but is a congressman known for his heart for the poor.”

Mayweather, 38, the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight champion, remained undefeated with a 48-0 record.

Pacquiao, 36, is now 57-6-2 with 38 knockouts

The welterweight showdown was broadcast live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The first of the fans arrived at the mall before 5am on Sunday to grab their tickets at Novo Cinemas and watch minor bouts before the main fight, which started at 7.54am.

“I thought it was a great fight. I thought both Pacquiao and Mayweather did a good job,” said Louis Burrell, 37, a teacher in Abu Dhabi who has lived here for four years.

“Congratulations to Pacquiao for going in and fighting, but because we’re Americans, we’re rooting for the home team – Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who dominated the fight from a defence stance. He landed more counter-shots and power shots, his typical fight.”

Mayweather is known for his brilliant defence and astute ring management.

Rashid Al Ali, 32, an Emirati security engineer, was another jubilant Mayweather fan.

“Mayweather is an undefeated champion, but Pacquiao proved he was not an easy opponent and put up a good fight,” he said. “It was a close fight, but Mayweather was a smarter fighter.”

Another Emirati, Mohammed Al Messabi, said he was a Pacquiao fan, but knew Mayweather would win.

“I love the way Pacquiao fights as he never runs away,” said the 27-year-old networking and telecoms engineer. “But Mayweather is a smarter fighter.”

Wassim Amari, 29, a petroleum engineer from France, was unimpressed by the judges’ decision.

Two ringside judges scored the fight 116-112, while the third had it 118-110, all in favour of Mayweather.

“It was such a stupid decision,” he said. “Pacquiao dominated the ring and all Mayweather did was to run around the ring. He was running away all the time, it’s so unfair. People are saying Mayweather is the best. He isn’t.”

Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion, is known for his speed, footwork and combination punching.

Francis Ocampo, 60, a former airport employee from the Philippines who has lived in the UAE for 15 years, agreed.

“Mayweather wasn’t fighting. He should not be proud of his win,” Mr Ocampo said. “Pacquiao deserved to win this fight of the century.”

“It’s unfair,” said Lina Khadra, 35, a Lebanese expat who was born and raised in the UAE. “Manny put up a good fight and was a better fighter. He’s the best.”

Her husband, Wissam, 45, disagreed.

“It was a very fair game and Mayweather also performed well.

But Mr Burrell said fans should study boxing to understand the sport.

“If you watch and understand boxing, you understand strategy and Mayweather didn’t fight an offensive battle,” he said. “Mohammed Ali had this quote: ‘Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’. Mayweather always had this movement around the ring.”