Pacquiao stops Manila traffic

2009-11-20 13:02

Manila - Manila's notorious traffic came to a halt and thousands lined streets and bridges on Friday to cheer Manny Pacquiao on his return to the Philippines.

Fresh from stopping welterweight champion Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas last weekend, Pacquiao stepped from the plane still nursing an injured right ear.

But he said he saw no problem facing Floyd Mayweather in the next mega-fight.

"I am willing to fight Mayweather," the 30-year-old said. "But we don't want to force him to fight me. He should be the one to challenge me because it was clear I had more pay-per-view than him."

Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, said on Thursday the Filipino star was willing to fight at welterweight (67kg) and he was waiting to hear from Golden Boy Promotions chief Richard Schaefer, who has assisted Mayweather's team on his most recent fights.

For the time being, Pacquiao said he just wants a vacation with his family. "I want to relax and my ear injury to heal," he told reporters, saying he will soon fly to his southern home province.

From there, he said he would file his nomination for a congressional seat in next year's elections. It will be Pacquiao's second jab at politics after his 2007 campaign fell short.

His popularity has become overwhelming. He is by far the most recognised person in the Philippines.

A former baker and construction worker born to a poor family, Pacquiao became an embodiment of a rags-to-riches story in the country where one third of the 90 million people live on less than R10 a day.

Standing in a flattop truck and surrounded by his wife and the country's environment secretary, his longtime supporter, Pacquiao waved to the crowds and threw them T-shirts emblazoned with a fist shaped in letters "MP" and draped in colours of the Philippine flag.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will later confer on him the Order of Sikatuna, usually reserved for foreign diplomats and heads of state.