Leading boxing promoter Bob Arum has defended comments made by champ Manny Pacquiao.
The eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has sparked criticism in the Philippines after describing gay couples as “worse than animals”.
He has since apologised for offence caused, then later doubled down, standing by his comments.
Pacquiao was subsequently was dropped by sponsor Nike, which described the comments as “abhorrent”.
Now Arum has weighed in, telling ABS-CBN sports consultant Peter Musgni that there are “many people in the US who believe what Manny said.”
Despite previously calling the comments “reprehensible”, Arum said he “will defend to death his right to say it.”
He also said that Pacquiao is “entitled to say he was against same-sex marriages that is his religious belief and while people may disagree with it, he is entitled to say it.”
Despite the controversy, it is expected that voters in the mainly Catholic Philippines, may still elect Pacquiao for one of 12 vacant Senatorial seats there.
A senior member of the Catholic Church in the Philippines has also defended the boxer.
Among the many to condemn Pacquiao for his words was former WWE wrestler-turned-Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista, a fellow Filipino.
He said: “My opinion on that is that he’s a f***ing idiot. My mom happens to be a lesbian, so I don’t f***ing take that s**t. I don’t think it’s funny.
“If anyone called my mother an animal, I’d stick a foot in his ass. That’s his opinion, but I don’t appreciate it.”
Although same-sex sexual activity is not a crime in the Philippines, same-sex marriage is not recognised, and gay couples are unable to adopt.
Last year, two same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in the Philippines – only to have them rejected.
Pacquiao’s comments follow those of fellow boxer Tyson Fury, who recently caused controversyafter comparing gay people to paedophiles.
The boxer has simultaneously stood by his comments and denied being homophobic – while also claiming that sex with children was legalised by a fictional ‘Gay Rights Act 1977‘.