Filipinos cheer Pacquiao's comeback victory over Vargas
MANILA (Reuters) - Filipinos in cinemas, bars, restaurants, and basketball courts erupted into jubilation on Sunday as they watched boxing icon Manny Pacquiao scored a unanimous decision over Jessie Vargas to win the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas.
The 37-year-old Philippine senator put on a dazzling display in his return to the ring after a brief retirement, even fighting with more intensity and energy, and dominating the 27-year-old American in the final rounds to close out an emphatic victory.
The presidential palace led the nation in sending a congratulatory message to Pacquiao, though it did not say if President Rodrigo Duterte, Pacquiao's political ally, watched the fight.
But it did say "the courage and grit displayed by our Filipino boxers in Las Vegas are the same qualities we must demonstrate as a nation to rid society of drugs, criminality and corruption."
"Once again, Manny's triumph united and brought joy to our people and our nation," a statement issued by the Office of the Communications Secretary said.
"The discipline, the determination, and the hard work of our People's Champ are truly what make him a National Treasure in Global Sports."
During Pacquiao's fight, streets in the Philippines were deserted as his legions of fans packed into cinemas, bars and restaurants, and basketball courts to watch on big screens, bringing the country to a virtual standstill.
Troops in army bases also watched how Pacquiao, an army reservist, beat the much younger Vargas.
"Army Lt. Col. Manny Pacquiao of the Reserve Force has truly been a source of inspiration, not only to our troops, but also to our organization (that) aspires to be a world-class Army by 2028," said Col. Benjamin Hao, Philippine Army spokesman.
It was Pacquiao's first fight since winning a seat in the Senate in May. He previously served as congressman and is widely regarded as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)