Pacquiao, 'The People's Champ,' is back in DXB
Manny Pacquiao is in Dubai over the weekend. But he's not here for a bout, though. - Reuters
Dubai - "We consider Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as the country's modern-day heroes so it's only fitting that we give it back to them," says Pac-man
Talk of Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao having a fight in Dubai and the UAE has swirled for long. And words almost turned to deed in 2017 when voices grew louder that the only eight-division world champion will face-off against Australian Jeff Horn.
But, sadly, it was not to be and has been the case ever since.
If there is any consolation though, 679,819 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) that make up 5.56 per cent of the UAE population, and have made the country their home, will get another rare chance to have a glimpse of their hero.
The 40-year-old, now a Senator from the over seven thousand islands that make up the beautiful Philippines, will be in Dubai over the weekend. But he's not here for a bout though.
Pacquiao, who goes by the moniker 'Pac-man,' and his entourage, landed at the Dubai International Airport in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The Pambansang Kamao, who beat Keith Thurman by a split decision for the WBA super-welterweight title in his last bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in July, brings his very own basketball league, to Dubai.
Pacquiao, in collaboration with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC), will host the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, with a two-day event titled 'Dubai Invasion 2019.'
An avid basketball fan himself, Pacquiao will feature in exhibition games over the two days, at the spectacular Hamdan Sports Complex on Friday and Saturday.
Pacquiao, who was the playing coach for the Kia franchise in the Philippine pro league, is eager to meet his fans during his two-day sojourn.
"I am really excited to come over to Dubai to spend time with our Kababayans out there and inspire them like what I've been doing for the past three decades when I am fighting inside the ring," said Pacquiao.
"We consider Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as the country's modern-day heroes so it's only fitting that we give it back to them. For two days, there won't be any shortage of fun and excitement for them as we will do our fair share to entertain them through the sport that's very close to their hearts," he added.
And it won't just be the Filipinos who are eager to see him.
Pacquiao's popularity transcends borders, with the Emiratis as well as the large expat population also being fans of the celebrated icon.
Three MPBL teams - Imus Bandera, Davao Occidental Tigers and inaugural champion Batangas City Athletics - will battle for top honours.
This marks the second time that Pacquiao will be visiting Dubai, having done so in 2015 for the Philippines Basketball Cup held at the Al Wasl Club.
One-time PBA league MVP J-Jay Helterbrand and popular Kapamilya actor Gerald Anderson will lead the way for the Bandera, who will take on the veteran-laden Tigers crew, led by bruising forward Mark Yee, on Friday.
Then the Bandera won't have any luxury of rest as they plunge back to action the following day as they duke it out with the loaded Athletics, spearheaded by grizzled guard Jeff Viernes, Rajah Cup Finals MVP Val Acuna and Derek Ramsay, another celebrity baller.
Tickets are pegged at Dh 200 (VIP), Dh 100 (Gold) and Dh 50 (Silver) and are available on meraticket.com.