LOS ANGELES — When Manny Pacquiao wandered into the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood and set up camp at the adjacent Vagabond Inn more than 21 years ago, he also began patronizing a nondescript Thai eatery that has now become famous the world over.
Tina Sridakun, who runs the small dining place frequented by Wild Card regulars and members of Team Pacquiao whenever the big boss is around, is readying herself for the inevitable.
Following Pacquiao’s stunning loss to Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas, Sridakun knows that fight could probably be the Filipino legend’s last.
If that is the case, then it could probably mean one thing.
Sridakun swears Pacquiao’s informal endorsement has done wonders to her business.
But there will never come a time when the cash register is going to ring like crazy.
Those days are not coming back now that Pacquiao is seriously thinking about calling it quits.
Still, Sridakun is upbeat that Pacquiao’s impending departure doesn’t mean the end of the world for Nat’s Thai restaurant.
“No, not really,” Sridakun told Daily Tribune in the aftermath of Pacquiao’s heartbreaking loss before 17.433 fans at the T-Mobile Arena.
“I will survive and the business will run but I will miss the days whenever he is in town getting ready for the big fight,” she said, putting her right palm on her chin and blindly looking at the buzz outside.
Nat’s has grown a loyal following through the years as it is regarded as a major part of the Pacquiao trail even before the pandemic started.
After the Wild Card, Nat’s is a leading major site associated with Pacquiao, whose pictures are adorned on its walls.
Gone are the Vagabond Inn (now Hampton Inn and Suites) and the Giant Dollar shop from where he purchased a pair of China-made socks that caused blisters in the first fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in May 2004.
And when Pacquiao fought Ugas, it was his first in America in over two years.
Last time Pacquiao was here, he was getting ready for Thurman in July 2019.
During the time Pacquiao was absent, Nat’s continued to operate, catering to the cravings of its clientele and casual boxing fans who drop by the Wild Card to take pictures with Freddie Roach and buy his merchandise.
With Pacquiao’s future uncertain, Nat’s isn’t actually in dire straits.