Heading into Eduard Folayang’s first title defense against Ev Ting on Friday night, there was already pressure for the ONE Lightweight World Champion. The SM Mall of Asia Arena was packed to the rafters, and he himself was overcoming the nightmare of the last time he competed in the same venue.
Moreover, the Baguio-native had an unexpected guest: the world’s only eight-division world boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao, who was sitting beside Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao.
Moments prior to the main event, the Fighting Senator gave him a pep talk that gave him added motivation.
“I was encouraged dun sa sinabi niya na, ‘You are one of the legends in Philippine mixed martial arts and I came here to support you’,” the 33-year-old shared.
And with one of his idols watching him, Folayang fought tooth and nail against Ting, giving a performance to remember and showing poise in the end to retain his crown.
Even after the fight, Folayang could still not believe that Pacquiao was there.
“I’m so happy na dumating siya. Malaking inspiration na nandito siya. Akala ko sa TV ko lang siya makikita,” added Folayang, who is now 18-5.
“It’s a blessing na dumadating yung mga tinitingala natin. It really encourages us.”
Folayang even quipped that Pacquiao’s presence might have also given him an added advantage against Ting, saying, “Pati siguro yung kalaban ko [sinabi], ‘Si Manny yun!’ Hindi ko alam kung nagpa-picture din siya!”
If Folayang continues to persevere in this sport, it would not be surprising that some day, he will be the one to inspire the next generation.