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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Martin can't wait for fight night

MANILA, Philippines - Concert king Martin Nievera said yesterday he’s looking forward to singing the “Pambansang Awit” before the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight in Las Vegas on May 2 and predicted in his typical “madcap” style, the only way the Hitman from Manchester could give the Filipino icon trouble is if he sings the English national anthem.

Nievera contacted The STAR from his Las Vegas home to express his excitement to finally do the honors in the ring after 26 years in show business.

“This event is not a show for me,” said Nievera. “It’s an honor. I have never done anything like this in the past. I have volunteered many times so you can almost imagine how happy I am to finally receive this honor. So if no one changes their mind, this will be my first time ever to sing our National Anthem.”

It was in Los Angeles a few months ago when Pacquiao popped the question after singing karaoke with Nievera during a party.

“Was I surprised?” continued Nievera. “Are you kidding. I almost had a heart attack. I was invited to go to Los Angeles by one of the nicest guys I know, Ted Benito and ‘M,’ one of Hollywood’s top designers, to attend his fashion show and a belated birthday bash thrown by ‘M’ Magazine for Manny.

“After the show, Manny and I finished the night singing karaoke and it was right after we sang ‘Be My Lady’ and ‘Kahit Isang Saglit’ that Manny popped the question. ‘Will you marry me?’ No, no, just kidding. He asked me, he actually told me, ‘I want you to sing the National Anthem for my next fight.’ After they lifted me off the ground, gave me CPR and put me in the ambulance, the first words from my mouth were, ‘Are you sure, Manny?’ I was just very concerned about the superstition some fighters believe. Manny assured me then and assured me just the other day that he doesn’t believe those things.”

Last week, a rumor surfaced that Lea Salonga would sing the Anthem instead. Nievera said he immediately phoned Pacquiao to get the lowdown on the issue.

“I already have this phobia about being asked to sing it and then end up watching someone else do it so I am more concerned about this ‘male-female Anthem thing’ than anybody else,” he went on. “Don’t get me wrong, Lea could sing our country’s Anthem and make this world beautiful but Manny asked me months before this rumor and I think she has sung for one of his earlier fights before.”

Nievera said Pacquiao phoned last week to reaffirm his choice.

“Manny assured me that he wants to not only keep his word but that he really wants a male singer (for) this fight and he wants that male singer to be me,” said Nievera. “He has lost fights in the past where a female sang the Anthem so it would not only be childish but it would be crazy to blame any male Anthem singer for any loss anytime in any fight.”

Besides, Nievera said there’s no doubt in his mind Pacquiao will whip Hatton.

“Even though I don’t believe in jinx or bad luck, I am sensitive that others out there do,” he said. “How I wish I could educate the ‘stupidstitious’ but I can’t. Manny told me the second he asked me to sing the Anthem that he doesn’t believe those things.”

Lani Misalucha sang the National Anthem for Pacquiao’s first fight against Erik Morales which was the Filipino’s last loss. Misalucha was one of several female singers tapped for Pacquiao’s bouts. Others included Karylle, Kyla, Geneva Cruz, Ciara Sotto, Jasmine Villegas, Regine Velasquez, Jennifer Bautista, Dessa and Sarah Geronimo.

“I want to sing the Anthem the way it should always be sung,” said Nievera. “Like it was the last song I will ever sing in my life. My mind set will be not to glorify me and my singing abilities or lack of but instead to glorify the country Manny wins for. My role here is to honor the Philippines and no one and nothing else.

“Of course, first and foremost, I want to get all the words right. But the ultimate mission is to make the Anthem ‘round one.’ Many are telling me to sing it like a march song but I’m sure many will agree that it’s almost impossible to sign a march song without any music to back you up. Singing a ballad is a lot easier to sing without music than it is to sing a march song, especially in May. Get it? Singing a March song in May?”

Nievera said he hopes to land the first punch on Hatton with his version of the “Pambansang Awit.”

“I really hope to give a different flavor to our Anthem,” he added. “We really do have one of the hardest and deepest anthems and to sing it, let alone memorize it, will be like training for the fight itself. I pray the country will pray for me that I land the first punch with our beautiful Lupang Hinirang.”

Like every Filipino, Nievera said he idolizes Pacquiao.

“I am a huge fan and believer of Manny Pacquiao,” he said. “He has done for this country what politicians and superstars alike only dream of. He made them believe.

Manny is a walking, talking hero who doesn’t stop giving his believers something to thrill about. His endless desire to win and humble disposition in life make him a winner no matter if he fights or not.

“My mission in life is to be a Manny Pacquiao kind of singer. The kind that never says die and will never give up without a fight. That kind that always has a ‘hit,’ that will be heard all over the world and will be remembered for lifetimes to come.”


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