by Mark Lorenzana
I used to cover Manny Pacquiao a lot back when I was still writing seriously about boxing and mixed martial arts for Interaksyon, for a couple of boxing websites, and for my now-defunct fight blog. This was before Pacquiao entered politics for the first time, running for a seat in the Philippine house of representatives in the May 2007 legislative election, aiming to represent the first district of South Cotabato province.
Pacquiao was eventually defeated in the election by then-incumbent representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio, who said, “More than anything, I think people weren’t prepared to lose him as their boxing icon.”
I remember, back then, Pacquiao was extremely disappointed about the loss and chalked it up to his lack of a college degree at that time (he has since earned his degree in political science, graduating from the University of Makati last year). But I agree with Antonino-Custodio: I believe that Pacquiao’s fans didn’t want to see him swallowed up and corrupted by politics.
Before running for congress, Pacquiao had already avenged his loss to Erik Morales, both by stoppage. He had already upset Marco Antonio Barrera and had fought Juan Manuel Marquez to a draw in a barnburner of a fight that saw Pacquiao drop Marquez three times in the first round. Pacquiao’s stock was going up, and the future was bright for him, boxing-wise. Why try to derail that by entering politics?
Pacquiao’s fans heaved a huge sigh of relief when their idol lost in the 2007 elections, but it was short-lived. Manny eventually won a congressional seat, but this time in Sarangani, the hometown of his wife, Jinkee. Now he is a senator, having won a seat in the Philippine senate in 2016.
In my short-lived career as a boxing writer, I had to write about Pacquiao a lot, not only because he was one of the hottest commodities in the sport—he’s eventually become boxing’s only eight-division champion—but also because my boss in one of the boxing websites I was writing for demanded that I write about Pacquiao 24/7, even though I wanted to write about other fighters, about other fights. This led me to quit my job there, but that’s another story.
The point here is, as much as his fans never wanted Pacquiao to enter politics—this blogger included—he has shown that he could actually juggle being a politician and being a boxer well (or maybe not: Pacquiao is actually the top absentee in the senate). Could he have reached even greater heights as purely a boxer instead of as a boxer-slash-politician? Hard to say. Pacquiao, both in and out of the ring, thrives on chaos: inside the ring he’s a whirling dervish of energy, his in-and-out, side-to-side movement and the nonstop pumping of his fists having brought him much success in his boxing career; outside the ring his love for chaos—evidenced by a huge entourage of hangers-on (which have included unsavory political allies) and the unbelievable ability to juggle, as well, not only sports (including basketball; he was once a playing coach for the Philippine Basketball Association) and politics, but also show business (he has made a couple movies and hosted several TV shows)—has brought him, ironically, much peace of mind. Sure, some have argued that a couple of Pacquiao’s losses here and there could have been the result of the Pacman stretching himself thin, but in the end it’s only speculation.
Especially since, in the course of his last three fights, Pacquiao has strung up three straight wins—a stoppage victory against Lucas Matthysse and two impressive distance victories against Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman, where Pacquiao even scored a knockdown early in the fight against the latter—since losing his fight against Jeff Horn in Australia. Pacquiao’s recent resurgence isn’t something new, even at the ripe age of forty-one, as bouncing back from a loss has been a trademark throughout his career: after his first loss early in his career to fellow Filipino Rustico Torrecampo, Pacquiao won fifteen straight; after getting stopped in Thailand back in 1999 and losing his WBC world flyweight title, he managed to string thirteen victories; after losing a hard-fought decision to Morales, Pacquiao managed to string another fifteen-fight winning streak.
But it remains to be seen whether Pacquiao will continue fighting, especially since the sports world right now—apart from the odd live Ultimate Fighting Championship events held every few weeks—is at a standstill.
But Pacquiao being Pacquiao, he can’t seem to find solace from the limelight. Just recently he figured in a couple of news items: one, Freddie Roach throwing out there that Manny could possibly fight middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and two, Bob Arum saying that Manny could possibly run as president of the Philippines in 2022.
Speculation, of course, but God forbid that both push through—especially the second. We all know that Pacquiao won’t be a good president. Don’t believe F. Sionil Jose.
(Photo by Bleacher Report via)