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‘Pacmania’ sweeps nation

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao’s face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero’s “fight of the century’’ nears.

Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation.

“The mood is upbeat. Of course, it’s the fight of the century,’’ Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP.

Blanco is a co-producer of the Pacquiao film: “Kid Kulafu’’, now showing at scores of theatres across the country and a high-profile scene-setter for the world’s richest fight.

For many, the 36-year-old Pacquiao, winner of an unprecedented eight world championships in different weight divisions, symbolises their hope of escaping the grinding poverty that afflicts one in four of his countrymen.

The movie tells the story of the runaway high school dropout who, years before becoming a ring legend, sold doughnuts on the streets and stacked shelves with “Vino Kulafu’’, a cheap Chinese wine brand.

Years later, as he became one of the world’s richest sportsmen and one of the most famous Filipinos, a Manila television network would give the left-hander another name: “The National Fist.’’

Pacmania always sweeps the Philippines ahead of his fights, but the intensity dropped in recent years after Pacquiao lost an unprecedented two straight bouts.

He then had three wins, reviving excitement and hopes Pacquiao still has what it takes to be the world’s best.

But Mayweather is the opponent his fans have always wanted him to fight.

Millions of Filipinos will don Pacman paraphernalia to cheer their idol on live television screens during the fight, which will take place on a Sunday morning in the Philippines.

Baseball caps, T-shirts, $68 boxing gloves signed by Pacman himself, and $565 vinyl dolls of Pacquiao boxing against the Disney character Mickey Mouse are flying off shelves.

“On fight day everyone wants to be seen wearing something that will symbolise their support,’’ Joy Saransate, manager of a Pacquiao-owned Team Pacquiao memorabilia shop in Manila, told AFP.