Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao has helped grow the Maharlika Philipnas Basketball League into a top event. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/ Gulf News

Dubai: Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquaio showed off his basketball skills as he wowed an army of adoring fans at the sold-out Hamdan Sports Complex on Friday evening.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Pacquiao donned a pair of basketball shorts to join a select team of celebrities including matinee idols Gerald Anderson and Derek Ramsay on Team Pacquiao in an exhibition game against a hand-picked Dubai All-Stars side representing the UAE.

Also playing on Team Pacquiao were his brother, Bobby, and former PBA league MVP Jayjay Helterbrand.

Pacquiao, who is boxing’s only eight-division champion and a sitting senator in the Philippines, has been the inspiration and driving former behind the Maharlika Pilipino Basketball League (MPBL) since its establishment in 2017.

The 40-year-old has shown personal interest in the MPBL and has ensured that it grew from a ten-team event, two years ago, into a flourishing tournament featured an astonishing 31 teams, in just two seasons.

Hundreds of fans
Hundreds of fans thronged the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai to watch Pacquiao play a game of basketball. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/ Gulf News

Voted the Philippines’ Person of the Year over President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2003, Pacquaio was also named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

And the fans that gathered at the 15,000-seater Hamdan Sports Complex loved every moment of Pacquaio’s presence on the basketball court that has been specifically built over swimming pool.

After the exhibition match, it was down to business in the first of two Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) matches as the Davao Occidental Tigers took on inaugural MPBL champions Batangas City Athletics.

Organised by DJMC Events management company in co-ordination with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC), the basketball action will continue on Saturday with a second exhibition match at 6pm, once again featuring Pacquaio.

It will be followed by a regular season league match between Friday’s winners and Imus Bandera, from 8pm.