I AM a fan of Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquiao as a boxer. A day after my second son was born in November 2006, I asked permission from my wife to momentarily leave her in the hospital so I could watch Pacman’s third meeting at super featherweight with Mexico’s Erik “El Terrible” Morales. I sneaked out of the hospital and went to a restaurant near Fuente Osmeña that showed the bout live on TV for a fee. Pacquiao knocked Morales out in the third round.
I had a voracious appetite for anything Pacquiao when the Filipino boxing legend was rising to the pinnacle of international boxing and more so when he became the consensus best boxer pound-for-pound and one of the world’s top earning athletes on the level with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Kobe Bryant. I spent money on pay-per-view for most of his fights during that period even if it affected my monthly budget for family expenses.
I was such a regular that boxing fans in our small suburban village would just find their way to my home when Pacquiao had a scheduled fight. We would be there cramped in my sala with the others positioning themselves in the yard wherever our television set was visible and shouting ourselves hoarse for every Pacquiao punch that landed on whoever his opponent was. Pacquiao was, after all, the “Pambansang Kamao” who made Pinoys everywhere proud of their race.
But I was never a fan of his politics, although I initially defended him from those who put him down as a politician because of his lack of formal education. I largely kept quiet every time his record as a congressman representing the province of Sarangani was questioned. Because he chose to continue boxing even when he was already a congressman, he earned the dubious distinction of being the lawmaker with the most absences during congressional sessions.
Pacquiao announced his running for the Senate in the May elections while he was preparing for his third fight at welterweight with American Timothy Bradley in April. That was a rebound fight after Pacquiao lost the year before to another American, Floyd Mayweather Jr., in what was dubbed as the “fight of the century.” Pacquiao’s boxing talent took a hit in that fight and so too his image: he was flogged for hiding from paying fans an injury he sustained while training.
Even if Pacquiao won against Bradley, it had gotten obvious at that time that his boxing career was on the downslide. He lost much of his boxing luster in that defeat to Mayweather and his worldwide popularity took a dive when, during the few times that he was able to campaign, he described people in same sex relationships as “worse than animals.” The sporting goods giant Nike withdrew its sponsorship of Pacquiao. Earnings for the Pacquiao-Bradley bout were low.
It was clear that the Pacman’s boxing career was almost over and the hope was that his Senate win would usher in a new chapter in his life: that of a politician. I say he won partly because he promised to retire from boxing and devote his full time to his job in the Senate. That is why when he announced proudly that he would continue boxing as a senator, I lost my admiration for the man. By fighting on, he not only disrespects the Senate but disrespects boxing as well, as both careers need to be dealt with full time.
Worse, his politics sucks. He ran under the senatorial slate of United Nationalist Alliance’s Jejomar Binay and promptly jumped ship when Binay lost to now president Rodrigo Duterte. In politics, he is a rising star among the new generation of trapos. He is doing this while milking whatever remains of his popularity in boxing to earn millions in dollars from boxing fans.
But I won’t be duped.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ twitter: @khanwens)