NEW YORK -- Outside of a Filipino restaurant, half a block from an above-the-ground subway track in Woodside, Queens, a sign written in Tagalog was posted Sunday morning on a glass door: "Manny Pacquiao, still our true champion."
The sign, inked with a number of signatures, seemed to embody the reaction of most Filipinos here, shortly after the controversial loss by their boxing idol to American fighter Timothy Bradley, who was awarded a split decision by judges a at MGM Grand Arena the night before.
From time to time, patrons coming and going from the restaurant would take a glimpse at the sign in disbelief. Others just silently shrugged it off and walked away. But most agreed on one thing: The judges' decision was biased and unfair.
"Call it rigged -- or the biggest robbery of all time," said Nestor Pangilinan, 45, who watched the million-dollar Saturday bout on HBO with his wife and children at their apartment in Woodside. "It was clear that Pacman dominated the fight, winning most of the rounds."
The two judges, CJ Ross and Duane Ford, handed the victory to Bradley 115-113, while Jerry Roth gave the fight to Pacquiao by the same score. The Associated Press had Pacquiao winning 117-111.
With the stunning split decision, it marked the end of Pacquiao's undefeated seven-year rule in the boxing ring. Bradley, the new WBO welterweight champion, improved his record to 29-0, with 12 KOs.
One worker at the restaurant, who spoke on condition that his name and the name of the restaurant not be used because it has no license to serve alcohol, said that they closed early on Saturday night to give way to "Pacquiao's Special Event."
They closed all the blinds, he added, and Filipino patrons from the neighborhood covertly entered from the back door, after paying a prix fixe for food and alcoholic beverages to watch the fight.
"There was a lot of excitement inside the closed-door restaurant when we saw that Manny landed more punches on Bradley, winning almost every round. People were yelling and cheering," he said. "But when the decision was announced, everyone was upset."
The worker said that many didn't even finish their food and left the restaurant as soon as the fight ended. "In the past, when Pacquiao won every fight, people would hang around until 3:00 a.m. It was the opposite this time."
While the much-anticipated bout between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (currently serving jail time for domestic violence) may never happen, the Filipino boxing champ will likely have a rematch with Bradley before the year ends – a rematch was tentatively set by boxing promoters for November 10 -- and Filipinos are hopeful that Pacquiao will soon get his welterweight title back.
To some, however, Pacquiao's loss was inevitable, if not expected.
"No matter how good you are, you will lose to someone at some point," said Claire Santos, a 36-year-old Filipina nurse, though she admitted that she was also disappointed at the judges' decision. "It hurts, but I think it just comes with the territory of any sport."
Early Sunday morning, before she and her husband came to Queens for brunch and to visit relatives, she said that they went to a Mass in Jersey City, NJ. The Filipino priest, she said, spoke in his sermon to a congregation of mostly Filipinos about accepting Pacquiao's defeat, because even the Filipino fighter himself, he said, embraced his loss.
Pacquiao, 33, a congressman in the Philippines who recently turned himself to God and promised to refrain from bad vices, reportedly respected the judges' decision. When he spoke to the media at ringside, he was quoted saying: "I accept what the result is. I respect the judges, I cannot blame them. It is a part of the game. I give thanks to the Lord. I do my best, by my best wasn't good enough."
"Like millions of people in the world, I'm still a big Manny fan, despite what happened last night," Santos said. "I think he's a real fighter; a great one in my lifetime. He makes my fellow Filipinos and our native land proud of what he has done."