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Philippines braces itself for Pacquiao power surge

MANILA (Reuters) - The streets of the Philippines could resemble a ghost town for a few hours on Sunday morning as everyone from taxi drivers to petty thieves makes time to watch Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Britain’s Ricky Hatton.

Junior welterweight boxer Manny Pacquiao of Philippines shadowboxes during a workout in a gym in Las Vegas, Nevada April 30, 2009. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Pacquiao, known as the “nation’s fist”, is idolised in the Southeast Asian nation and his every appearance in the ring has a a majority of the 90 million people glued to their television and radio sets, causing a surge in demand for electricity.

“In terms of sports events, every Pacquiao fight is the Philippines’ Super Bowl,” said Carlito Claudio, vice president for systems operations at the National Grid Corp of the Philippines.

Power demand normally rises by two percent, or around 140 megawatts, whenever Pacquiao fights and this Sunday is likely to be no different, Claudio told Reuters by phone.

Pacquiao, a former four-weight world champion, will try and snatch the IBO light-welterweight title from Hatton in a 12-round bout in Las Vegas on Sunday morning Phillipines time.

“I’ll skip work in the morning to watch the fight,” Danilo Santos, a 28-year-old taxi driver in Manila, told Reuters.

“I’m sure all Filipinos will also stay home so it will just be a waste of time driving around. If Manny wins, then I’ll have a busy afternoon,” added Santos, who expects people to be partying in the streets should their man triumph.

Lolita Cruz has set up a cable television at her small, neighbourhood canteen in a Manila suburb so her customers can watch the fight while eating.

“I am praying for Manny’s victory because that will bring honour and pride to all Filipinos anywhere in the world,” Cruz said. “He’s my hero because he always makes us proud.”

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Restaurants with cable television will open early as will shopping malls with cinemas, where people can watch the fight live via satellite.

The SM group, the country’s largest cinema operator, said the tickets, priced at 551 pesos (around $11) each, were selling fast.

“So far we’ve sold only 50 percent of the tickets but many people usually buy during the day of the match,” said Armando Cortez, supervisor at the SM North EDSA cinemas which sold the most tickets in the country for Pacquiao’s Dec. 7 defeat of Oscar de la Hoya.

Pacquiao, nicknamed “Pac-man,” is clearly popular with the nation’s criminals as well.

“We have historical and statistical data to show that there’s always zero crime during Pacquiao’s actual match,” said Nicanor Bartolome, national police spokesman.

In the southern Mindanao island, government soldiers will set up a giant screen in a former camp of the militant rebel group Abu Sayyaf to watch the match, according to a local radio report.

Pacquiao, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has also distracted politicians.

Congress adjourned its session early this week so about 50 lawmakers, including the speaker of the House of Representatives, could fly to Las Vegas for the fight.

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