SARANGANI (December 10) – As Manny Pacquiao’s stunning knockout defeat continues to reverberate across the country, his circle of close friends are relieved that the Filipino boxing icon has been cleared of any serious brain damage.

Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Kenny Bayless

Referee Kenny Bayless, left, calls the fight as Juan Manuel Marquez, from Mexico, right, celebrates after he knocked out Manny Pacquiao. Pic: AP.

Pacquiao fell face first when he was clipped by a powerful right straight from Juan Manuel Marquez with one second left in the sixth round.

He lay motionless for about a minute before being helped into his corner.

Malungon Mayor Reynaldo ‘Bong’ Constantino said he was relieved to see his bosom buddy collect himself after the knockout and the way Pacquiao handled his post-fight interview.

Constantino said his friend will definitely emerge a better man after his defeat.

He offered no excuses and said Marquez was the better man yesterday.

“Marquez was the hungrier fighter and was better prepared for Manny this time,” Constantino said.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez said he was “stunned like all” when Pacquiao was knocked out cold.

“I am praying for his health (and) that no serious damage was inflicted to him,” Dominguez added.

Pacquiao was brought to the hospital immediately after the fight and was subjected to a battery of physical and neurological tests.  He was cleared by his doctors and went straight to his hotel room.

Reports said he even reviewed the tape of his fight with long time buddy Buboy Fernandez.

Banker Orman Manansala was worried Marquez looked very strong even before the fight.

His fears were proven true. Mansnsala’s nephew Bren Evengelio is the congressional office chief of staff of Pacquiao in Sarangani.

Parang nanginig siya (He was like twitching) or was it him trying to stand up,” Manansala described what he saw in the video replays of Pacquiao’s knockout loss.

Bibingka (baked rice cake) seller Bert Cano said he lost a P200-bet on Pacquiao, a fight he didn’t get to watch at the capitol gym.

Cano, whose roadside bibingka store is just across the Sarangani captiol grounds, lost his day’s profit although he seemed proud and had no regrets to have placed a bet on his congressman.

Quo vadis?

As Pacquiao contemplates his future, his friends and fans are having mixed reactions about where their favorite boxing idol is heading to?

Pacquiao has hinted it is not the end of his boxing career.

Mayor Constantino says his friend is still a premier fighter and it is up to Pacquiao if he will continue with his boxing career.

Retired employee Joemari Tingzon, whose wife works at the provincial capitol, says Pacquiao can still fight.

But it is her mother Dionisa who is adamant on Pacquiao retiring from boxing and concentrating in politics.

Duon na lang siya sa pulitika,” Dionisa Pacquiao told GMA-7 hours after the fight.

She also berated the pastors who have been coming in droves to his son’s house.  Dionisa said the pastors made her son turn his back against his Catholic faith.  The following day, she sang live on television reminding Pacquiao on the wisdom of a mother’s advice.

Anacleto Saya-ang, president of the Sarangani Provincial Employees Union, said it is time for Pacquiao to concentrate on his job as representative of the province.

He fears this will mark the beginning of Pacquiao’s slide,  Saya-ang said his ‘friends’ may soon abandon him like a sinking ship.

Before Pacquiao accepted the fourth Marquez fight, lawyer Jeng Gacal fears the days of megabucks of his client is soon coming to an end with another loss coming off from the Timothy Bradley defeat.

With Sunday’s defeat to Marquez, Pacquiao’s value as a marquee fighter should take a dive.

It is unlikely he will get the same purse as he was guaranteed – reportedly a cool US$26 million – for the fourth installment of the rivalry with his Mexican tormentor.

Not the end, but the beginning

Pacquiao has bounced back from humiliating defeats before – also both by knockout.  But unlike Sunday’s debacle, Pacquiao no longer has the luxury of being young to re-chart and re-charge his boxing career.

He has logged 61 fights as a professional, including Sunday’s bout with Marquez.

He fought the best in his divisions and emerge victories most of the times although he also had his many shares of battering.

He is old by boxing mileage.  But Pacquiao is a different specimen of a fighter.

It was a one punch that ended the fight Sunday.  Skills wise, he was his old self, especially in the first two rounds when he was moving around Marquez and picking his shots.

The knockdown in the third round changed the complexion of the game as Pacquiao became the wounded tiger.  He bounced back and hurt Marquez repeatedly – even dropping Mexican in the fifth round.

He had Marquez’ crimson face turned into pulp.

But his aggression got the better of him this time.

Mayor Constantino, however, has none of the excuses.

For fellow congressman Pedro ‘Jun’ Acharon Jr, it may be over for Pacquiao.

“It’s finished.  So be it. I pray for his safety (nevertheless),” said the congressman from the first district of South Cotabato who is being challenged by Pacquiao’s brother Rogelio (Roel) in next year’s election.