Except perhaps for some boxing aficionados in Thailand, the name Manny Pacquiao is virtually unheard of in the rest of Southeast Asia where soccer or football is the ruling sport. But in the Philippines, boxing is a religion and Pacquiao is the god of the highest order.
Every time this guy, who they dubbed "Pacman", fights in the ring, the whole Philippines literally grinds to a halt. For a few minutes, all of 80 million Filipinos forget the hardships and tragedies that so often afflict them as together they applaud his pugilistic exploits.
That was certainly the case last Sunday, June 29, when the Pacman again appeared at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to methodically destroy Mexican-American David Diaz and take way his lightweight belt. It was Pacquiao’s fourth world title in four weight divisions--the first Asian to accomplish the feat.
Watching the frenetic Pacman fight is a must for every Filipino, whether nine or 90 years old. For some who can afford it, the PPV (pay-per-view) is the best option as this allows them to enjoy the bout live at the comfort of their sofa.
Others who have less money settle for movie houses where they can be treated to a live widescreen spectacle. This, however, will require you to go to the venue on an early Sunday morning (the fight is usually held Saturday nights in the United States) and shell out about 400 pesos (US$10).
For those who are lazy enough to go to the movie houses or simply do not have the money to spare, the only remaining option is to stay at home and watch it on television or listen to the AM radio. But the trouble with watching it on TV is that it’s overly delayed (by at least three hours), while radio does not give the thrill of seeing the actual exchange of punches between the boxers.
But, in this age of the Internet, surely there's a way to watch the greatest Filipino boxer display his skills atop the ring without subscribing to PPV or suffering the indignity of viewing tons of advertisements on TV. I’m not talking about pirated DVDs that immediately turn up in the streets after each of his fights, but it's something related to that.
In Pacquaio's last two title bouts, I resorted to the "free" live streaming webcast offered by a multitude of Web sites. Yup, that's right. This is a phenomenon that has cropped up recently although, just like anything free, the quality of the broadcast is not as good as those that come with a price.
For the Pacman's recent match against Diaz, a friend directed me to a nice site which provided a rather large screen to stream the fight live. On the side of the high-resolution screen was an interactive feedback window where viewers, mostly if not all Filipinos, gave their witty commentaries as the bout progressed.
So, while my brother was sticking his ears to the radio speakers to know what was going on in Las Vegas and the rest of the neighborhood was still waiting for the match to be aired some three hours later, I already saw at the precise moment how the "Fighting Pride of the Philippines" decked his rival with a devastating left cross to the jaw.
I'm not sure if the site had the permission to stream it via the Web. But it’s likely that this is not the case, just like most of the Web sites that broadcast the match online. The big promoters and broadcasting firms, or even Pacquiao himself, may not like it, but this Internet mutiny will not merely thrive but surely swell in the future.