Sunday, February 11, 2007


Look into the eyes of the little Filipino spitfire named Manny Pacquiao and you’ll see that he’s a person eager to please those around him. Playfully known as the "Pac-Man" for his ability to gobble up his opposition he has a distinctly boyish charm about him. He possesses an endearing, obedient smile and clear, innocent eyes.

While he scales a mere 130 pounds he carries the weight of his nation and some think, the very world of boxing on his narrow shoulders. To say that he is the most sought after boxer on the face of the planet is no understatement. Everybody, it seems, wants their piece of Manny Pacquiao. His Filipino countrymen support him with fervent rallies and he is regarded as a national treasure. Every punch he throws is for all classes of people in the Philippines – the rich and the poor. Pacquiao is their hero and he brings them together in unison. He is theirs and they are his.

Inside a boxing ring he is an electric performer with few equals who has an innate ability to excite the masses. But outside the ropes when they present him with contracts written in English with paragraphs of promises written by Philadelphia lawyers and Harvard businessmen – he is no match. In the dank cave where professional boxing skulks it surprises no one that the trolls lurking in the shadows have taken every opportunity to sink their fangs into this little star.

Pacquiao has been at the center of multiple and fierce tugs-of-war by various promoters, managers, agents, consultants, lawyers and hangers-on. He currently has three managers of record in Shelly Finkel as well as Nick Khan and Keith Davidson who are both attorneys. Pacquiao also has a Filipino attorney named Jeng Gacal that helps him review the plethora of legal documents he seemingly must sign before he is even allowed to lace up a pair of boxing gloves and punch for pay.

Born into poverty in a rural Philippine province he grew up sleeping on a dirt floor. When he finally hit the big time and they got him a suite in a swanky Las Vegas hotel with a King-sized bed and thousand-thread count Egyptian sheets, Manny Pacquiao slept on the floor. He has a hard time turning anybody away. The autograph seekers constantly hound him. When he trains at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood adoring crowds show up just to watch him punch the mitts and skip rope. When asked what his life living under a microscope has become he simply responds, "It’s all very hard. There are so many places I would like to go and visit, but I can’t. There’s always people following me and people calling out my name. There’s a lot of things that I just can’t do anymore." Then he smiles like a boy.

Pacquiao was a free agent after ridding himself of his former promoter Murad Muhammad and Philippine manager Rod Nazario last year. Manny settled a $33-million dollar lawsuit he brought against Muhammad for allegedly skimming his purses for several bouts. Just as the jury was getting ready to decide his fate, Muhammad settled the suit out of court for $800,000 and Pacquiao was free from both Muhammad and Nazario. This was after Pacquiao had originally signed a contract with promoter Lou DiBella that would have paid him a $50,000 signing bonus and $2.5 million over three years. Muhammad threatened DiBella to cease interfering with Pacquiao because he had already signed a renewal of their contract. The contract that Pacquiao supposedly signed has never been found.

During the trial, Pacquiao’s attorney Judd Burnstein described unscrupulous promoters and managers as "the underbelly of boxing which involves greed, exploitation and taking advantage of people." Burnstein noted that Pacquiao, as a fighter, "is a man of courage who deserves great reward for risking his life in the ring."

After that it was promoter Gary Shaw who acted as a brief go between for Pacquiao and charged Manny a $250,000 in fees to represent him in his dealing with Bob Arum of Top Rank during his rematch with Erik Morales. Before that, Pacquiao was involved with Philippine manager Rod Nazario who reportedly didn’t bother to pay withholding taxes to the IRS on Pacquiao’s fights in the United States and instead diverted those funds elsewhere leaving Pacquiao with a huge tax bill.

Now comes word from Los Angeles that Manny Pacquiao has signed a new multi-year, multi-fight contract with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Pacquiao arrived in Los Angeles last week to begin training for his third fight with Erik Morales on November 18th in Las Vegas. Oscar quickly contacted Pacquiao and a meeting was hastily arranged.

Oscar decided to treat Manny to an evening dinner at Morton’s Steak House in Los Angeles, where according to their own literature, "Our menu is a la carte, and our prices vary slightly by market. The average check for a full dinner for two is about $170 not including tax and gratuity, and that depends on the beverages ordered with your meal." It was under these absurd circumstances and in this perverse setting that the future of Manny Pacquiao’s professional boxing career would be decided.

A few hours later another contract that contained Manny Pacquiao’s signature was procured and another promoter declared that he had exclusive rights to all future Manny Pacquiao bouts. De La Hoya had cornered another opponent like he had so many times before in his own boxing career and had emerged with another piece of Manny Pacquiao.

After November 18th, Finkel, Khan and Davidson are supposedly gone as Pacquiao’s managers. Finkel has been frantically attempting to stay within the good graces of Pacquiao - who can never say "no". The rumor is that Freddie Roach, who has served as Pacquiao’s loyal trainer for the past several years will now also take over as his manager. Meanwhile, Bob Arum, the promoter of Pacquiao’s next fight on November 18th against Morales claims that De La Hoya has tortuously interfered with a contract he has with Pacquiao’s signature on it.

They serve a cut of meat at Morton’s Steak House called "Filet Oskar". I wonder if Manny got a piece of it the other night?

October 2006

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