Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: L.A. fans pull for local hero with ‘good heart’
Beyond his appeal as the churchgoing underdog and big-hearted Nice Guy in Saturday’s bout, it is boxer Manny Pacquiao’s local ties that cement the loyalty of many Angelenos — even if more than a few doubted he could win the big fight.
Their affection was on display in crowded bars, living rooms and backyards across the city in the expectant hours leading up to his welterweight showdown in Las Vegas with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose fans were considerably harder to find.
During lunch hour at Bahay Kubo, a cafeteria-style eatery frequented by Pacquiao in Los Angeles’ Filipinotown, families were ordering trays of adobo, fried chicken and oxtail stew takeout in preparation for the fight.
Among them was Rhuel Crisostomo, a lab technician from Reseda, who was hosting a viewing party with 15 guests. “We share the TV bill, share the booze and after, everyone can crash with us,” he said. “We can’t wait to see our guy’s moves.”
Customer Allan Mandia, an IT specialist from Santa Clarita, said he and other Filipinos were loyal to their countryman Pacquiao because “he’s a down-to-earth guy, not just to those from his culture, but to everyone.”
Arlynne Mandia, a freshman at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, whipped out her phone to share tweets from Mayweather’s account, showing a picture of his jet and luxury cars with the words, “Welcome to my world.” Then she scrolled down, sharing an old Pacquiao selfie captioned: “On our way to church. Have a blessed Sunday, everyone.”
“He has great character. I’ve read and learned a lot about him,” Mandia said. She hears stories of Pacquiao’s intense training at the Wild Card, a Hollywood boxing club, and of his donations to the needy.
Along with Bahay Kubo, Pacquiao often dines at Chinatown’s May Flower Seafood Restaurant, where customers ask for his autograph.
“He never says no. He has a good heart. That’s why God gives him good luck,” said owner Ha Lu.
Last month, the fighter gathered three generations of his family and his trainers at the banquet spot. Pictures of Pacquiao, Lu and her husband are displayed in every room. The couple even owns a framed replica of a championship belt, signed by their best-known customer.
At his family home in Filipinotown, where another viewing party was gathering, 34-year-old Jason Yap and some friends had set up a giant screen with plywood panels on their backyard fence. The truck driver said he was expecting as many as 150 die-hard Pacquiao fans.
“For the Filipino community in Echo Park, this is not just a gathering but a moment to witness for our people,” Yap said.
Once the fight was underway, Yap shouted for Pacquiao – but ordered his pit bull to be quiet.
“Pacquiao likes to duck away,” he said after a few rounds. “He ducks away at first until he gets a rhythm. Once he gets in a groove, that’s a wrap.”
Nearby, Johneric Concordia stood behind a crowd of friends with his arms crossed. He shouted for Pacquiao to use his right hook.
He admitted that Mayweather was fighting well but said he wasn’t ready to give up on Pacquiao.
“He’s doing all right right now,” Concordia said. “Just wait till Mayweather starts tasting leather.”
Mayweather had all the advantages going into the fight: height, reach and the fact that he would take home 60% of the purse, regardless of the outcome.
But one thing he seemed to lack was the public’s love.
One of the few Mayweather supporters was Marissa Pierson, 24, who said she was rooting for Mayweather because he’s undefeated. She said she took a lot of flak from her friends for supporting the fighter.
As she waited in line at 33 Taps Bar and Grill in Hollywood with her boyfriend, she offered this explanation for why so many people — including her boyfriend, Quenton Barnett — were against Mayweather: “He has a ton of money and everyone is jealous of him.”
Barnett, 21, said he was rooting for Pacquiao because he wanted to see an upset.
At a bar at L.A. Live, Sheena Allen, 30, donned a pink cocktail dress and paid a $25 cover charge to watch the fight, despite what she admitted was scant knowledge of boxing.
“This is an event — like the Super Bowl,” she said. “I can’t be the only one on Monday who doesn’t know what happened.”
She said she heard that Mayweather was undefeated and wanted to see him maintain the impressive streak.
“I like a winner,” she said.
Back in Filipinotown, Yap’s mother, Joycelyn Geaga-Rosenthall, stood up for the final moments of the match. Luckily, she was too short to block anyone’s view.
She turned away from the screen as Pacquiao took a punch to the face. Once the outcome was clear, she decided to leave the party so she wouldn’t have to hear the official result.
“Mayweather is the better fighter,” Geaga-Rosenthall said. “But I like Manny better. He has a better spirit and I can support a good man.”
Times staff writer Stephan Ceasar contributed to this report.
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