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Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao attends RIZIN event in support of fellow Filipino Fritz Biagtan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, who signed a “promotional contract” with Japan’s RIZIN Fighting Federation earlier this month, made an in-ring appearance during Sunday’s event at Yokohama Arena.

The 40-year-old Filipino grabbed a microphone and addressed a crowd of 12,914 before the day’s final two matches, which included a kickboxing bout between Japanese star Tenshin Nasukawa and Pacquiao’s compatriot Fritz Biagtan.

“Good evening, everyone,” Pacquiao told fans. “I’m so happy to be here, invited by my friend (RIZIN president Nobuyuki) Sakakibara. Thanks for inviting and supporting our fighter from the Philippines, Fritz Biagtan. I’m so thankful to my friend Sakakibara for inviting me here in the RIZIN promotion. (There have been) very good fights tonight and I hope you enjoy the matches.

“I’m excited to watch our fighter, Fritz Biagtan and also Tenshin to fight. And I’m excited also for the main event (King Mo vs. Jiri Prochazka, deciding the first-ever RIZIN lightweight champion) tonight. Thank you very much. Arigato gozaimashita.”

Pacquiao had appeared at Saturday’s weigh-in in Tokyo. There, he said that Sunday would be his first time watching an MMA event in person.

Biagtan had been promoted as a fighter Pacquiao had hand picked to face Nasukawa, who fought against the legendary Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition boxing match on New Year’s Eve last year. But the 23-year-old said on Friday that he had never met Pacquiao, saying “he was shocked” that Pacquiao had chosen him for the bout.

Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), who currently holds the WBA welterweight title, watched the Nasukawa-Biagtan match from ringside. He returned to the ring after Nasukawa knocked Biagtan out in the third round and posed for photos with the Japanese fighter.

Pacquiao competed in Japan once against Shin Terao at Korakuen Hall in 1998. Sakakibara stressed after the event that it was only the beginning of RIZIN’s partnership with Pacquiao and that the organization would seek to deepen ties going forward.

“He was saying, ‘I could do this (MMA),’ ” Sakakibara revealed, adding that the boxer was joking. “But with that possibility included, this is only the start for our relationship with Pacquiao. He’s a WBA title holder, but we would like to keep negotiating for him to fight for us later.

“We would like to proactively have other Filipino fighters, too. I think beyond that we could consider eventually hosting an event in the Philippines.”