(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)
by Mark Lorenzana
No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.
In his meteoric rise, from up-and-coming fighter who started his career in the now-defunct Blow by Blow boxing program to becoming one of the pound-for-pound greats while annihilating supposedly bigger and stronger opponents en route to becoming the first and only eight-division world champion so far, the Pacman hasn’t owed anyone anything.
Not to us, his proud and awe-inspired countrymen, who have never failed to tune in to any of his fights. Certainly not to the self-serving politicians—who plucked him away from the dangerous squared ring and introduced him to the even-more dangerous political arena—who only have their own and their family’s self-interests in mind. Not to the shameless leeches and hangers-on in his grossly overblown entourage who cling to him for dear life in fear of losing their one and only meal ticket. No, not even to his “god”—whoever he or she or it is right now, in whatever reincarnation or shape or form, rosaries or signs of the cross or other pre- or post-fight rituals notwithstanding—whom he had never failed to give praise to or thanks to in the course of his brilliant and illustrious career whether in a win, in a loss, or in a draw.
No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe his success inside the ring and outside of it to anyone—or anything—in particular.
One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his long-time trainer, Freddie Roach, who has helped shape Pacquiao from a gangly, left-hand-happy, whirling dervish of a dynamo that struck fear into the hearts of lower-weight fighters into a more calculated, two-fisted offensive machine with improved defense, a fighting machine that effectively chopped down bigger opponents campaigning in the higher weight divisions.
One can also argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his once-unparalleled work ethic, which has had Roach beaming with pride not so long ago and which has had the five-time BWAA Trainer of the Year pull his prized pupil back at times during training lest his ward—champing at the bit—invest all his energy in the gym, punishing the punch mitts and the heavy bags and the speed bags and his sparring partners instead of unleashing all his bottled-up energy inside the squared ring in front of his opponent.
One can, perhaps, also argue that the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his pure love of the fight game. A love that has, until recent years, prompted Pacquiao to focus squarely on the task at hand and leave all the other non-boxing distractions out the door of the Wild Card gym and just buckle down to work. And by work we might actually mean real boxing-related training: genuine training that doesn’t include basketball with the gang and badminton and volleyball with the missus and dancing the Gangnam Style at the daughter’s birthday party. By work we might actually mean setting up camp early in Los Angeles and not shuttling to and fro from Baguio to Manila to the Wild Card or from Sarangani to General Santos to the Wild Card or wherever. By work we might actually mean taking care of the body by resting right and sleeping early during a training camp and not staying up all night in cockfights and drinking sessions and, more importantly, Bible studies because, really, isn’t it the body and not the “soul” that a boxer is putting to the test inside the squared ring against an opponent who has an equal love of the game and who has also put in the same amount of hard work, or even more so, for several months in a vow to take your damn head off?
One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to all three: a great trainer who has always had his ward’s welfare in mind, an excellent work ethic, and an unadulterated passion for boxing. The trainer, of course, who will tell him when the time is right to hang up his gloves for good, which might not be very long from now. The work ethic that has since branched out from the gym and ring and enthusiastically parlayed into politics, TV, the movies, advertisements, and other pursuits. And the passion for boxing that burned and smoldered within him like a raging fire in his early years but has somewhat died down as of late, threatening to flicker into a dying flame.
Still, some would argue that, no, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.
One thing should be painfully apparent, however, after all the smoke has cleared: Manny Pacquiao owes it to himself at least to finally figure out who or what he really wants to be from now on—a full-time boxer or a full-time politician. It’s about time, really. Because, as we all saw the other day when Juan Manuel Marquez—older, slower, less-physically gifted but a full-time boxer since 1993 until this very day—knocked Pacquiao out with a vicious and perfectly-timed counter right straight packed with dynamite, it never pays to be a part-time player in an extremely dangerous sport such as boxing (also known as the hurt business) where one fatal mistake could lead to potential life-threatening consequences.
Especially against an opponent, an Aztec warrior, who owed it to himself and to his countrymen to finally get that elusive win by dint of hard work and by doing what he really loved to do and, more importantly, by being just what he was until the time comes when he can’t be that person anymore—a fighter who respected the game enough to focus 100 percent on the task at hand.
No, the devastating knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez will not erase Manny Pacquiao’s legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his era. Not at all, far from it. But it will, no doubt, redefine the legacy of one “Dinamita” Juan Manuel Marquez, one of the best counterpunchers the boxing world has ever seen and one of the most intelligent fighters the Pacman has ever faced.