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Manny Pacquiao: More than a Sportsman?

By Donald Stewart

Every time Manny Pacquiao, 52-3-2, 38 KOs, fights, the Philippines comes to a standstill.

A nation prays for his victory. Every time he comes home he goes to pray at the same Catholic Church each time. When he’s not there, there are queues of devoted Filipinos and they increase in his presence. The Pac Man fights for his country in the way he fought for his family as a child. He sold doughnuts to keep his family fed until he was big enough to get into a boxing ring. Unbeknown to his mother he ran away to Manila and began the next stage of digging his own people out of poverty.

Forty percent of the population of the Philippines lives in poverty. A devout Catholic country they have been occupied by the Spanish and the Americans. People talk of the country enduring 450 years of Catholicism followed by 50 years of Hollywood. Fertile ground for a showman ollywood. Howho takes the hopes and dreams of a nation on his shoulders and has delivered at eight weights.

Pacquiao’s appeal transcends sport.

Like many well known Filipinos, he has gone from National hero to National politician. His trainer, Freddie Roach, tells of a disturbing episode during his training for the Antonio Margarito bout. Pacquiao stopped one day and told Roach he missed his job. Roach pointed out he was at his job – boxing. He shook his head. Pacquiao is a Congressman. He missed congress. If Manny is going to retire then he already has his next platform lined up.

Manny Pacquiao grew from his humble beginnings to take the boxing world by storm, not because he was lucky but because his determination, tough work rate and his faith told him he was destined to be great.

Pacquiao believed.

That belief saw him grow from the abject poverty he escaped through an impressive amateur record – apparently 60-4 – and then into his first professional fight at the age of 16! He has admitted that he put weights in his shorts to make the minimum weight needed to fight. His first defeat was in his 12th fight when he was knocked out in the 3rd round because he was made to wear heavier gloves because he didn’t make the weight.

This is a recurring theme.

Pacquiao didn’t fight outside of the Philippines until his 24th fight against Shin Terao, of Japan, in Japan. Pacquiao had plenty of time to build up a loyal and devout following at home. His reputation was such that, by the next fight he was boxing for and winning the WBC Flyweight title against Chatchai Sasakul. Three fights later he lost it, again not making the weight against Medgoen Singsurat.

Since then, he has been involved in some of THE fights over the last decade. Pacquiao moved from flyweight to super bantamweight, having won titles at super flyweight and flyweight already. He got the shot at world title at that weight with two weeks notice, stepping in to the ring as a late replacement against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, winning by technical knockout.

Then came Marco Antonio Barrera and what many consider the defining fight of his career – seven years ago in 2003!

Fighting at featherweight for the very first time, he won by technical knockout in the 11th. Moving to Super Featherweight brought him his next loss as well as his next title: Erik Morales.

Losing by judges’ decision after sustaining a head butted cut in the 5th was sore for Manny. The return saw Morales knocked out in the 10th for the first time in his career. His title came against Juan Manuel Marquez in a split decision many believe was swayed by the third round knockout Pacquiao packed into the fight.

A lightweight title win against David Diaz was followed by a victory over Oscar De La Hoya in the Welterweight division by technical knockout after five rounds. De La Hoya retired right after.

The UK sent Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao sent him home without his light welterweight belt. Miguel Angel Cotto appeared and left without his string of belts too. Manny Pacquiao was repaying his own faith. His eighth weight belt came against Antonio Margarito.

The twists and turns of this true champion will never be done justice in an article that cannot go through, blow by blow the remarkable career of Manny Pacquiao. He has brought boxing to the attention of the poor? No. Has he brought hope to the needy? Not really. Has he lit up the world with his beauty? Oh please!

Manny Pacquiao has given the world another example of how this great sport can be a channel out of poverty for young men who want to avoid the prisons and the poisons of poverty. He avoids the traps by adopting the trappings of hard work and devotion to a career he loves until he can see another possibility to do more and be more than he already is.

Pacquiao has just announced the next chapter in his career being Shane Mosley, 46-6-1 39 KO’s, in 2011. The number of people hoping it was THE big one against Floyd Mayweather JR., 41-0 25 KO’s, are beginning to bore the number of people beginning to believe it will never happen. Pacquiao needs to fight because he is a fighter and the car horns of the Philippines need to honk and the people need to stop what they are doing and watch the television for the next chapter of their hero’s journey.

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