Unravelling Filipino Pacquiao: A man of multiple layers
Very few sportsmen have pursued as many career paths as boxer Manny Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion who has also made his name outside the ring as a politician, philanthropist, lawmaker and singer.other Updated: May 01, 2015 14:44 IST
Very few sportsmen have pursued as many career paths as boxer Manny Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion who has also made his name outside the ring as a politician, philanthropist, lawmaker and singer.
The Filipino southpaw, who will take on unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather in a heavily anticipated welterweight showdown at the MGM Grand on Saturday, is unquestionably one of the most intriguing figures in contemporary sport.
Pacquiao has worked as an actor, he is a military reservist with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserve Force of the Philippine Army and in 2010 he won a seat in his country's national congress.
He became the first Filipino athlete to appear on a postage stamp, launched his own MP8 cologne fragrance in 2011 and later that year recorded the 1977 ballad "Sometimes When We Touch" with the song's creator Dan Hill.
The ever-smiling Pacquiao is also a humble man of remarkable paradoxes, a richly gifted boxer blessed with lightning-fast hand and foot speed who can unleash a withering flurry of jabs to the body and head while displaying a gentle human touch.
When he landed a world title in an unprecedented eighth weight class with a unanimous points victory over Mexican Antonio Margarito in 2010, he took pity on his bruised opponent in the late rounds and eased up on attack.
"I saw him ask Margarito: 'Are you okay?', and he nodded to him," Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach recalled. "Manny became friends with Margarito through the 12 rounds and he does that in sparring too.
"I keep telling him not to be friends with these guys because one punch can change everything. I say to Manny: 'You will make more money if you knock them out'. He likes that."
Illustration depicting Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. (AFP PHOTO)
An adored figure in the Philippines, Pacquiao featured in Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people in 2009 and has spearheaded a drive to improve medical services in his Sarangani province.
He has also become an entertainer extraordinaire in the ring who always strives to give his legions of fans as much excitement as possible with his all-action, aggressive style.
"I have never seen a personality with a whole country behind him who live and die with his every move," Pacquiao's long-time promoter Bob Arum told Reuters.
"He is such a humanitarian, such a caring person for the poor and he is so consumed with doing good. That's why I believe his accomplishments outside of boxing will eclipse anything he does in boxing."
Pacquiao, 36, knows all about poverty, having left home at the age of 14 to help support his mother and her six children and, for a while, he lived on the streets.
"He is of the people," said Arum. "He experienced hunger and poverty on the streets of Manila. Manny is one of the few athletes to have experienced extreme poverty but then raised himself up, made a success of himself and tried to help others.
"That's why he is such a compelling figure," Arum said of the southpaw, who is popularly known as 'Pac-Man' but perhaps more accurately as the 'Fighting Pride of the Philippines'.
First Published: May 01, 2015 14:27 IST