Saturday, November 29, 2008

Manny Pacquiao's Dream Transcends Boxing

Manny Pacquiao is a beloved figure in his nation of the Philippines.

For Manny Pacquiao, Saturday night's mega-event, 'The Dream Match' against Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas, means much more to him than any other fight. For the fiercely patriotic Pacquiao, known as the 'National Fist' in his native Philippines, this is a fight he perceives as being a collective battle for the voice of an impoverished nation.

For Pacquiao, Saturday night is the most significant fight of his professional boxing career. Should he overcome the long odds against him - and win - he will automatically be ushered into a spotlight brighter than any he has ever known.

And that's just the way Manny Pacquiao wants it, because that will allow him a larger platform to achieve his dream of bringing splendor to the Filipino people.

If Pacquiao vanquishes Oscar De La Hoya it means that people from all over the world will be able to hear him. And that way, at least as far as Manny Pacquiao figures it, he can then tell the world about the people of the Philippines, the people that he loves.

"I want the Filipino people to always remember that Manny Pacquiao always fought for them, for the people," explained Pacquiao during a recent telephone conversation. "I fight to help provide for them and because my people, they need me."

The fight against De La Hoya is only six days away now. Pacquiao has all but wrapped up a tortuous, Spartan training camp under the watchful eye of taskmaster Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.

With the help of Freddie Roach, Pacquiao has turned himself into a welterweight.

Pacquiao has trained like a soldier locked in boot camp while attacking sparring partners and running the hills that surround Hollywood, California. In the process his body has undergone a metamorphosis. Gone is the featherweight waist and lightweight arms. Pacquiao has grown into a muscular 150-pounder and he has added over 10 pounds of what appears to be solid muscle to his diminutive 5'6 1/2" frame in order to meet De La Hoya at 147 pounds.

"The reason that I have trained so hard for this fight is for my people and my family," said Pacquiao, who is a near mystical figure to the mostly Catholic population in the Philippines. "I want their future to be better."

When you spend time around Manny Pacquiao you begin to realize that he uses his boxing career as an instrument to advance the humanitarian cause of the Philippine people. His mind is constantly with the hearts of his people, dreaming of ways that he can use his wealth and influence to aid his countrymen, who earn an average income of $115 per month.

The little Filipino spitfire has the weight not only of the fight with De La Hoya on his shoulders, but the weight of an entire nation. I asked Pacquiao, who will likely earn at least $15 million against De La Hoya, if that sort of pressure ever gets to him.

"Well, the pressure is there, but that has given me the motivation to train hard for this fight and to motivate me to gain more inspiration and train hard," he said. "But one of my missions in this world, I believe, is to do what I can with the responsibility I have been given. I have a blessing from God and I need to give something back to my people, especially the poor people."

A hero to the masses, Pacquiao always receives a warm welcome, especially when he wins.

While it's not always evident, there has been a method to Pacquiao's madness. He desperately wants the win in this fight more than any of his previous 52 and he says he will attack De La Hoya from the start and test the older man early. For the past several weeks he and Roach have been working on perfecting the strategy that they hope will tarnish the Golden Boy.

Roach, who last year trained De La Hoya for his losing effort versus Floyd Mayweather, Jr., has said Pacquiao must step on the gas from the sound of the first bell. That he must rush Oscar, who he has described as a mentally uncertain fighter, get inside of De La Hoya's ramrod left jab and underneath his lethal left hook. Then Pacquiao must attack the body, use angles, do his work, get out and then repeat the cycle.

This, claims Roach, is the path to victory and the way for Pacquiao to rise to even greater heights.

Pacquiao says that what he must do to De La Hoya is nothing personal, but it's simply something he has to do because the Filipino people are the ones that have put him in this position and this is his opportunity to repay them.

"I want them to know that I've always fought for the country…to make them proud to be a Filipino," he calmly says. I'm prepared for this fight and I have done everything for this fight to make the people happy. I want to surprise the people."

As his boxing purses have increased, Pacquiao has increasingly given large chunks of his personal fortune away. He commands a guaranteed minimum of $2 million per fight, has numerous endorsement contracts with several multi-national corporations and even sings and acts. His income for the past several years has been in the tens of millions. As a result, the charitable requests flood into him for everything from schoolbooks to medical procedures. Rarely does he turn away an open hand.

Pacquiao knocked out David Diaz and took his 135-pound Lightweight title. But Manny was the first one there to help him up.

Some worry that Pacquiao will wind up broke because of his generous mindset, but Manny claims he never thinks of such an occurrence. Like many fighters who have come before him, money seems almost unimportant to Pacquiao, except in the regard of what it can do to provide for his family and for others.

"I have a big responsibility," he said. "All the things that I have right now are from God and I have to give them back to the people that need help. So I believe the more you give, the more you get. I believe that. That's my heart, that's what I feel. So nobody can change my feelings."

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum has worked with Pacquiao for the past few years and he has a unique perspective on the Manny Pacquiao phenomenon.

Arum was also once the promoter of Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran and Alexis Arguello. All three were great fighters that gave back to the people that idolized them and turned to them for support. As a result, Arum knows of what he speaks when he says that Pacquiao is one of the special fighters.

"God touches certain people," said Arum.

"And when He touches those people and gives them great ability, they then feel that in response they have to give back. And the only way they can give back is to their fellow human beings. And so I know Manny feels that way and I think he's blessed that he has that view about life and his place in the scheme of things. So I'm very, very supportive of any and all kinds of charity that Manny does because I think Manny knows, deep down, that God will provide."

For Pacquiao, Saturday night is not about a boxing match. It's not necessarily about the money and it's not about Oscar De La Hoya. But it is about the dream that Manny Pacquiao has to win a fight in order to elevate a nation.

"I feel lucky and I feel, you know, so happy," says Pacquiao. "And I thank God for the blessings that he has given to me."

November 2008

1 comment:

Angelito said...

Manny is like a glimmering rose on a hot dry desert surrounded by thorny figs and thistles. His decency is much more dignified than that of the fabulously entertaining Muhammad Ali who was certainly compassionate to the needy to a fault like Manny but was flawed by a character trait that hopefully will not overtake Manny when he reaches the pinnacle of his great career: pathologically egocentric and boorish to his opponents.