Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao may not have thrown any punches, but he was the star attraction for more than 3,000 spectators at Saturday’s Island Rumble.
Amid the snapping of cellphone cameras and the cheering and stomping of the large crowd, the eight-division world champion entered the ring at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex to wave to fans and pay tribute to the “beautiful Cayman Islands.”
The Philippines senator and philanthropist thanked the island and its large Filipino community for the warm welcome and vowed to return for a family vacation.
On this occasion it was all business for Pacquiao, who made a string of public appearances in a 48-hour visit that tested his legendary endurance.
After a 34-hour flight, which he described as the longest of his life, the senator was whisked straight to the Government Administration Building for a welcome reception. He made appearances at a VIP night at the Marriott resort, at the ground-breaking for a new boxing gym in Bodden Town, at Health City Cayman Islands in East End and at Saturday’s boxing night.
A trip to Cayman Brac on Sunday morning was canceled as the schedule finally caught up with him.
During his visit to Bodden Town on Saturday, Pacquiao told fans, “I was talking to my wife and I told her it is a beautiful place, beautiful beaches and you can swim, snorkel, and she said ‘I want to go there and bring the kids.’
“I am hoping to come back here with my family and we can enjoy the beauty of the Cayman Islands and also the hospitality and generosity and friendship of the people here.”
The stands at the Truman Bodden complex were filled Saturday night with a large contingent of the island’s Filipino community who turned out to see their national hero.
Pacquiao sat ringside next to Premier Alden McLaughlin and posed for pictures and signed autographs throughout the night.
The five amateur boxing bouts were interspersed with music and dance performances by Caymanian and Filipino entertainers. Egypt Criss, star of U.S. reality television show ‘Growing up Hip Hop,’ sang the American national anthem.
Egypt is the daughter of Sandra Denton, better known as Pepa from the ‘90s hip hop group Salt-N-Pepa, and rap icon Treach (real name Anthony Criss) from Naughty By Nature. She sat ringside with her stepfather, Gurps Singh Rai of SDKA International, the UAE-based multinational which recently opened a securities company in Grand Cayman and was the headline sponsor for the Island Rumble.
Matthew Leslie, whose Cayman Mardi Gras promotions was the organizer of Saturday’s event, said, “This has been an A-list crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.
“It has been fantastic, and I’m so happy to see Manny Pacquiao enjoying himself, people getting pictures with him and having a good time.”