Pacquiao: God and Hard Work

By Robert Ecksel on November 19, 2012
Pacquiao: God and Hard Work
I like Manny. I think he is sincere. I'm just not sure that he is right. (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Some accusations have an extended afterlife.

As Manny Pacquaio prepares for his fourth and what many hope is his final fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, he is generating publicity, as he always does, by his very presence in the U.S.

Training in Hollywood, California under the watchful eye of his trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao attracts crowds, and crowds of reporters, in part because of his accomplishments in the ring, in part because he’s so agreeable.

If one wants trash talk and bad-mouthing one need turn to other fighters. Pacquiao the born-again Christian speaks ill of no one. That has something to do with his newfound faith. But it is also who he is.

Pacquiao at 33 is part of the dwindling old guard. There are still a few fights left in him, and maybe even a fight with the gratuitously inactive Floyd Mayweather. But Pacquiao the pugilist is winding down. His aspirations for the presidency of the Philippines will no sooner be denied than were his aspirations in the squared circle. That will be a different fight, however, and a considerably less compelling fight at that.

USA TODAY, that hard-hitting excuse of a newspaper, recently spoke with Manny in L.A. They talked about steroids. They talked about politics. They talked about God. They even talked about boxing.

“I never have used drugs like steroids,’’ Pacquiao said. “Why use illegal drugs—steroids—and ruin your name? You can’t be proud if you are using performance-enhancing when you’re on top. It’s kind of cheating the people and your opponent. You can be successful without using. If you use, you don’t believe 100% in yourself.’‘

That’s an interesting take on an interesting subject, but Manny mistakes HIS notion of pride for everyone else’s. In a world where winning at all costs seems to be the only thing that matters, it’s no surprise that cheating is as endemic as it is in professional sports.

“In my heart, I know and I believe I have used nothing,” he said. “It’s all God and hard work.’‘

On the subject of politics, Pacquiao said he wants “to help people with their everyday needs” because “I have been there. Boxing is a sport where you hurt people. In politics, you serve them.’‘

Manny is right on the money when it comes to boxing. Much though we love the sport, we’re not dishonest enough to not see it for what it is. But when he talks about politics, I’m not sure what to think. He may be speaking as a self-serving politician, which wouldn’t be out of line given his desires. Or maybe politics in the Philippines are radically different than politics elsewhere else. But Pacquiao’s statement, “In politics, you serve them,” is, in my opinion, incomplete without adding the words “with a pinch of salt to cannibals for lunch.”

Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, said of Manny, “He gives third-world people the feeling that they can advance. This is a kid who sold candy on the streets of Manila, who had to fight his way against all the other hungry Filipinos. He taught himself (English) and he ran for Congress. His is an unbelievable story—something even a huckster like me couldn’t make up.’‘

I like Manny. I think he is sincere. I’m just not sure that he is right.

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