Filipino boxing superstar and politician Manny Pacquiao has returned to the competitive ring in emphatic style, clinching the world welterweight title with his first knockout victory in nearly a decade.
Pacquiao beat reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Lucas Matthysse from Argentina in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday, in the seventh-round in what was his first fight in more than a year.
It was the eight-division world champion’s 60th career-victory and 12th championship win.
“This is it. I am back in boxing,” the 39-year-old boxer and senator from the Philippines said. “I am not done. I’m still there.”
Duterte, who flew to Malaysia earlier for the bout before an official visit, congratulated Pacquiao for “giving us pride and bringing the Filipino nation together once more”.
“You have proven time and again that you are not just a public servant, but one of the greatest boxers of all time,” Duterte said in a statement. “This win will surely cement, yet again, your position and legacy in boxing’s hall of fame.
“You are truly the people’s champ!” the president added.
‘Old school is still cool’
Sunday’s fight was Pacquiao’s first outing since a surprise defeat to Australia’s Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia, 12 months ago.
Approaching 40 years old this year, many have questioned whether Pacquiao should consider retiring. He also split from longtime American coach Freddie Roach earlier this year.
But Filipino boxing analysts said Pacquiao was back to his old form.
“For the first time in almost a decade, we saw a Manny who should be feared by the young boxers,” analyst Ed Tolentino told DPA news agency. “Those who keep saying he’s an old man, watch out.”
“Pacquiao is the only one left in his generation and he just proved that the old school is still cool,” Tolentino added.
Duterte told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that Pacquiao should now retire, rest on his laurels and enjoy life.
In the Philippine capital, Manila, fans celebrated his win and return to the ring.
“I’m so happy … His win is everyone’s win,” security guard Jason Ladica told Reuters news agency.
“He can still continue fighting,” said James Puebla, a nursing student. “He still has what it takes.”