Filipino boxer hammers US rival in welterweight bout

MANILA: Millions of Filipinos cheered Sunday after boxing hero Manny Pacquiao hammered legend Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas.

"Pacman" solidified his reputation as the world''s best pound-for-pound fighter with a dominant performance that left De La Hoya, the 2-1 favourite, unable to come out of his corner for round nine in the non-title bout.

"Even though we have an economic downturn, suddenly the morale of the Filipino people is boosted," the chief aide for President Gloria Arroyo, Eduardo Ermita, said on Philippine radio.

He said Arroyo called Pacquiao immediately after the bout to congratulate him.

"The president and the Filipino people would like to extend our profound congratulations to Manny Pacquiao. His boxing win is testament to the spirit of the Filipino," said her spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo.

The 29-year-old fighter is a folk hero in the Philippines, a son of vegetable farmers and grade-school dropout who has conquered the hearts of a country where two people in five live on less than two dollars a day.

Tens of millions watched the welterweight bout on television -- most on time delay, with few able to afford the pay-per-view live rates -- as Pacquiao gave De La Hoya, a 10-time champ in six weight classes, the worst beating of his career.

Pacquiao, the reigning World Boxing Council lightweight champion who went up two weight divisions, dominated his taller, rangier opponent.