Filipinos ecstatic over Pacquiao’s win

MANILA: Millions of Filipinos danced in the streets and joined raucous parties on Sunday as the impoverished Southeast Asian nation celebrated boxer Manny Pacquiao's emphatic win over Ricky Hatton.

Motorists waving the national flag drove through major cities tooting their horns and shouting out of the windows after Pacquiao's second-round knock-out of the Briton, which sealed a sixth world title in different weight divisions.

The Philippines' usually jammed highways had been deserted before a delayed broadcast of the Las Vegas fight was screened on free television, and police said even criminals took the day off.

"It's zero crime rate today," said national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome. "We wish Manny would fight every day so we will have no problems in security." Troops fighting Muslim militants on Jolo island also watched the fight, while President Gloria Arroyo took time out from an official visit to Egypt to comment on the win.

"President Gloria Arroyo joins the entire nation in gratitude of God for the spectacular victory of our Manny Pacquiao," her spokesman Cerge Remonde told Filipino radio by telephone.

"Manny Pacquiao showed the world the best in the Filipino ... We found it incredulous that it was that fast. We were really ecstatic. There was whooping in the delegation." At least 10,000 people watched a free live screening in Pacquiao's dirt-poor home city of General Santos, while in Manila's depressed Tondo area another 2,000 people packed an airless gym to watch the fight.

Tempers flared among the capacity Tondo crowd, including shirtless men, when a technical hitch briefly interrupted the feed but the fans roared Pacquiao's name and raised their fists when Hatton fell unconscious to the canvas.

Across town, a well-heeled crowd of 200 including politicians and celebrities watched at a cafe in Manila's upscale The Fort district.

"We knew he would win but not this fast," R.J. Ledesma, editor of men's lifestyle magazine "Manual," told AFP. "We were expecting a brawl," he added.

"It's a proud day for Filipinos," said former government official Robert Mananquil.

Pacquiao's International Boxing Organisation junior welterweight title means he has equalled the record of world crowns in different divisions, and is considered the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.

The victory also offers a welcome moment of celebration for the Philippines, often a victim of natural disasters, political upheaval and corruption and whose already struggling economy has been hit hard by the global slowdown.

"It was a hard punch. It was a solid punch," Pacquiao said of the left hook that floored Hatton.

"I hit him on the chin and I didn't think he would get up."