Pacquiao Visit Excites Cambodian Fans
The visit of Philippine boxing icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao to Cambodia today has spurred a frenzy of interest among Cambodian fight fans.
The announcement was made personally by Prime Minister Hun Sen during a ceremony on Friday at the Peace Palace celebrating the success of Cambodian Petanque gold medalist Sok Chanmean. The premier said he expected the 37-year-old Filipino boxing icon and senator to be part of a two-day high-level delegation led by controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, and requested the Cambodian Boxing Federation to invite Pacquiao. However, The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia said it was yet to finalize plans and was subject to Duterte-Pacquiao’s schedule.
Pacquiao is considered to be the best Asian boxer of all time and among the greatest boxers ever. He has won eleven major world titles in his storied career and was named ‘Fighter of the Decade’ for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), WBC, and WBO and is a three-time Ring magazine and BWAA Fighter of the Year. However, his legacy was tarnished after a defeat to Floyd Mayweather in 2015 in the sport’s most lucrative fight of all time.
Pacquiao most recently defeated Jessie Vargas in November to claim a unanimous decision to win the WBO welterweight title for a third time.
Meanwhile, since taking office earlier this year, President Duterte, known for his colorful language and abrasive style, has overseen a wide-ranging war on drugs which has led to thousands of deaths of both drug-pushers and users. He has also attracted strong international condemnation for his no-nonsense tactics, with critics contending that the former-Davao mayor had given carte-blanche authorization for citizens to summarily execute suspected drug dealers.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun...you have my support,” he told a crowd of supporters in June.
“Shoot him [the drug dealer] and I’ll give you a medal.”
Many of these extra-judicial killings of suspects often end with bodies dumped on the side of road alongside signs marking the victim as a drug-pusher.
However, Pacquiao, who angered many earlier this year with his outspoken criticism of homosexuality for which he was later forced to apologize, has said he, like the majority of his compatriots, fully supported Duterte and cited his own experience with drug-taking before he became a $500 million boxing phenom.
“I tried drugs...many kinds of drugs, all kinds of drugs,” Pacquiao told Reuters in an interview in October. “The president, he doesn’t know my experience with drugs.”
Mr. Hun Sen, for his part, has said in recent months he would not resort to Duterte’s methods in tackling Cambodia’s drug problem.
“Life sentences are enough of a deterrent for those who have committed serious crimes,” he said in an October speech to graduating students from the Royal University of Law and Economics.
“We will not use the measures of some countries that allow brutal killing.”
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