World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight champion and Philippine iconic boxer Manny Pacquiao has offered 1 million pesos (22,500 U.S. dollars) as cash incentives for the Filipino gold medalist in the upcoming Beijing Olympics, local media reported Wednesday.
With Pacquiao chipping in, the cash awards have swelled to 8 million pesos (179,775 U.S. dollars) to encourage the 15 Beijing-bound athletes to produce the country's first Olympic gold.
Pacquiao, the freshly-appointed special envoy and flag-bearer for the Philippine delegation to the Beijing Games, said the offering was one of the things he could do to arouse the morale of Filipino Olympic athletes.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Pacquiao said he expects light flyweight boxer Harry Tanamor to bring back a gold medal.
"Tanamor is a very good fighter. I wished he could win and bring back the country's first gold in Olympics," Pacquiao said.
Five of the nine Olympic medals the Philippines won so far since the 1924 Paris Olympics were from boxing. Mansueto Velasco, who won silver in the 1996 Atlanta Games, was the latest Filipino athlete who came closest to a gold.
Of the 15 Filipino athletes participating in the Beijing Games, Tanamor and two taekwondo jins are considered the country's best bets to win a gold, or a medal at least.
As one of Asia's best professional boxers to have won four championship titles at WBC and IBF (International Boxing Federation), Pacquiao said he saw Asian boxers in recent years getting better in the ring and have good chances to beat Westerners and Latinos at the Games that has long been their strength.
Before Pacquiao, Filipino-Chinese Lucio Tan and the software giant Microsoft has respectively pledged 1 million pesos for Filipino Olympic goal medalist, on top of the 5 million pesos (112,360 U.S. dollars) cash award mandated by law, media reports said.
Under Republic Act 9164 of the Philippines, also known as the incentives act, a gold in the Olympics is worth 5 million pesos (112,360 U.S. dollars), a silver 2.5 million pesos (56,250 U.S. dollars) and a bronze 1 million pesos (22,500 U.S. dollars).
(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2008)