MANILA (Reuters) - The crowd fell into silence for seconds, some wept unabashedly as they stared quietly at a giant screen in a Manila public park after Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight crown on a controversial split decision on Saturday.
Filipinos in cinemas, hotels, public parks and even army bases across the Philippines were shocked, too numbed to react as Pacquiao, winner of eight world boxing divisions, tasted his first defeat since March 2005.
American Timothy Bradley ended Pacquiao’s 15-match win streak in the ring, but many Filipinos found it difficult to accept after a fight Pacquiao largely dominated.
“I’m so devastated,” basketball coach Charles Tiu, who watched the fight with his family and friends at a bar, told Reuters.
People at the bar were stunned by the decision. They were speechless for a moment but there was no big simultaneous outcry.
“I’m shocked and disappointed,” Gina Tubo, a 42-year-old mother, said, wiping tears from her eyes.
“The decision was unfair. There was a moment when Bradley was wobbling. How can Pacquiao lose that way.”
Pacquiao was convinced he had done won the fight as the Las Vegas crowd booed the decision, which triggered criticism in the boxing world.
British boxer Amir Khan tweeted that the result was a “robbery” while former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis called it “disgraceful.”
There was also frustration etched on the faces of hundreds of soldiers who watched the fight at army bases across the country.
Filipinos stood behind their Pacquiao, who was immediately offered a rematch by Bradley.
“Manny will remain and will always be our champion,” army spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said of Pacquiao, a lieutenant-colonel in the reserve force.
“God may have other plans for him” Tubo added of Pacquiao, a congressman and widely regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
Manila’s streets were deserted before and during the fight as Filipinos were glued to the television.
Police authorities have said the crime rates drop every time Pacquiao enters the ring.
Reporting By Manuel Mogato and John Tee; Editing by Alastair Himmer