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July 24, 2014

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Manny Pacquiao lends hand to Philippines storm relief

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Associated Press

Boxer Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, sits on the stage during a news conference in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009. Pacquiao, considered the pound-for-pound best, and WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, of Puerto Rico, announced their Nov. 14 fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao took a break from training camp in the Philippines last weekend to distribute food and supplies to hundreds of people who have been affected by the country's worst flooding in 40 years.

Promoter Bob Arum said Friday that the back-to-back storms, which have triggered dozens of landslides and killed nearly 500 people, for the most part didn't affect the pound-for-pound king as he trains in Baguio for his highly anticipated fight next month against Miguel Cotto.

"I talked to them last night, and the typhoon is still hanging around, so he couldn't run outside," Arum told The Associated Press. "But he's getting good sparring in."

That is, when Pacquiao's not making a quick trip down from the mountains to the capital of Manila, where last Sunday he spent several hours helping with flood relief.

The storms began Sept. 26, and after Typhoon Parma struck last Saturday, rescuers waded through mud near Baguio and retrieved more than 150 bodies. Dozens of others were still missing, and more than 100 people were pulled out alive. TV footage showed bodies arriving in black bags in a hall in Baguio, where relatives wept after recognizing their loved ones.

Established by Americans more than 100 years ago, Baguio is in the heart of the Cordillera region, about 125 miles from Manila. Officials said close to 100 landslides have occurred near the city, and the nonstop rain is threatening more homes and businesses.

Arum was visiting the training camp during the storms last week.

"I was concerned, the whole staff was concerned," said Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels. "I got a message from Bob saying, 'I'm with Manny, we're OK, we're at a palatial estate in the mountains.' But it was very scary."

Pacquiao is idolized in the Philippines, his following so fanatical that hundreds of people tail him during his morning runs. His popularity bridges the divide between rich and poor, and government officials jokingly claim that crime drops whenever he fights because everybody is in front of a television.

Many expect the 140-pound titleholder to run for president, and he's even borrowed a line from the Spiderman movies that "with great power comes great responsibility."

So, last Saturday he headed down from his mountain training camp, in driving rain, so that he could wake up Sunday and assist those who have lost everything.

"I escaped on Saturday morning, from Baguio to Manila, because that storm didn't hit Manila," Arum said. "And Manny, after he worked out, about 4 in the afternoon, in the middle of the rain, was driven down to Manila and on Sunday distributed food. It's just incredible."

Arum said that Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach will leave for Los Angeles on Oct. 24, so that the fighter can get acclimated to the time difference. Pacquiao will have logged about 150 rounds of sparring against Urbano Antillon, Jose Luis Castillo and Shawn Porter by the time he arrives in Las Vegas for the fight on Nov. 14.

Cotto, meanwhile, will continue to train in Tampa until two weeks before the fight, which has a catch weight of 145 pounds and will be for Cotto's WBO welterweight title.

Top Rank also announced Friday that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will be on the undercard against journeyman Troy Rowland. Other fights include junior middleweight champion Daniel Santos vs. unbeaten Yuri Foreman, and a welterweight bout between Alfonso Gomez and Jesus Soto-Karass.

Associated Press Writer Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.