Filipino boxing hero

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MARCO WERMAN: A much-anticipated boxing match will be fought in Las Vegas tomorrow night. Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines is challenging England's Ricky Hatton for the world light-welterweight championship. Pacquiao is a hero in the Philippines, and he's gotten a big reception in Las Vegas, too, as the BBC's Mike Costello reports.

MIKE COSTELLO: Typically raucous support for Pacquiao as he arrived at the hotel here in Vegas this week. The noise reflecting the fervor back home, because when Manny Pacquiao fights, for the people in the Philippines, it's not an event, but a happening.

BOB ARUM: There is not one incident of crime during a Manny Pacquiao fight � none. And, there's been an insurrection that's been going on for 40 years in the south of the Philippines � the Muslim insurgency. And the day that Manny fights, it's a truce.

COSTELLO: Bob Arum is one of the most successful promoters in boxing history. He's worked with Mohammed Ali and many other legends, the latest being Pacquiao.

ARUM: I was in the Philippines two weeks ago and had dinner with Imelda Marcos. She told me she really believes that Manny can be President of the Philippines and would be a great President. Here's a kid that has no education at all, and he's now put himself through high school and college and got a Masters degree.

COSTELLO: Two years ago, Pacquiao lost in an attempt to win a seat in Congress. In a country where in the past quarter of a century, two Presidents have been forced from office by people power, some feel that a more committed effort when he retires from boxing might produce a different result. Part of Pacquiao's appeal is his humility. He was genuinely taken aback by his reception here this week.
MANNY PACQUIAO: Oh, I'm surprised. There's a lot of people coming to the doors and you know, they're always supporting me.

COSTELLO: And we've seen the reception here today. What will this mean to the people back home in the Philippines if you win this weekend?

PACQUIAO: Oh, it means a lot, you know? It will be going to our country and they're always hoping for that victory.

COSTELLO: Pacquiao lives in General Santos City, where he was born and lived until he was 12 when he ran away from home in a rage after his dad ate his dog � a not uncommon occurrence among the poor in the Philippines. Pacquiao's trainer, Freddy Roach, takes up the story.

FREDDY ROACH: They say that, you know, his dad ate his dog one day and then he got really upset and ran away when he was 12 years old. He went to Manila, started just selling donuts and trying to feeding himself that way. Then he ended up in a boxing gym and they took him in and made him into a fighter. And he started boxing professionally I think at 14. I think he's only made � his first pro fight was $2 dollars.

COSTELLO: From $2 dollars for his pro debut to a guaranteed $12 million dollars for Saturday night's fight.

WERMAN: The BBC's Mike Costello reporting from Las Vegas.