LAS VEGAS — Imagine fighting for your life. Then imagine meeting your hero, an inspiration who fights not only for himself but for just causes and humanity.
John Rocero, 18, who has undergone debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, need envision no more. His dream of meeting Filipino eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao transformed into reality Thursday.
Along with his parents, the teenager from Stockton, Calif., Ascended a flight of stairs in the MGM Grand Garden Arena and beamed brighter than the neon Vegas strip as the 33-year-old former eight-division world champion greeted him.
“Hi, John,” said the fighter, extending a hand before accepting a Pacquiao portrait painted by Rocero’s sister as the two exchanged gifts. The Rocero family will attend Pacquiao’s fight Saturday night versus nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez.
“It’s an honor that he visited me,” Pacquiao said. “I’m happy that I have time to pray with him. I believe he will be fine. All things are possible with (God).”.
It wasn’t the first time that Pacquiao and the Make-A-Wish Foundation teamed to make a young person’s day brighter. The fighter said he met a boy last year who was suffering from stage four-cancer and is now cancer free.
“He visited me yesterday when I was jogging,” Pacquaio said. “When we prayed, he had no hair. Now he has a lot of hair. God helped him, not me. I am just the instrument.”.
John Rocero said, “Manny told me that God would be with me for my healing.”.
Along with the teenager’s father, Filipino-born Roy Rocero, Pacquiao led the three in silent prayer, a touching moment that left the father with moist eyes.
“For him to pray with us was great; I really felt spiritual,” said the father. “I’ve watched the way he carries himself. I’m really impressed with him.”.
The teenager will return home Monday to resume home-school studies with the plan of graduating with an honorary diploma next spring with his high school class.
“Initially, (John) told me, ‘I just want to see him fight,’ ” said Patricia Rocero, his mother. “Now he will have the best Christmas ever.”.