Editorial & Opinion

Emotional victory

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Manny Pacquiao scored an emotional victory over Brandon Rios last Sunday in Macau, not only for himself but most especially for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” who have only just begun to stir from its knockout punch.

His definitive triumph showed that Pacquiao, a loser in his last two fights, has returned to the winners’ circle, and that he still has what it takes to be on top of the game.

Basking in the glow of redemption and the adulation of millions that had momentarily faded, the Filipino champion said he was not done with boxing just yet. “This is still my time,” he declared. Nevertheless, doubts linger and questions persist. Is he still the Pacman of old? After failing to score a knockout since 2009, does he still wield the killer power? Is he still good enough to fight tormentor Juan Manuel Marquez for a fifth time, or the elusive Floyd Mayweather Jr. at all?

By his own account, Pacquiao is a changed man. Indeed, the gambler and the rake in him seem to have disappeared, and been replaced by a man of religion. Yet he continues to surround himself with characters who feed off his wealth and are bent on squeezing any ounce of juice they can get from his considerable boxing prowess—promoters and wheeler-dealers like Bob Arum, politicians, “spiritual advisers,” and con men. Las Vegas and Macau, the sin cities on either side of the Pacific, are jostling to land a Pacquiao fight and the millions of dollars it generates for business.

The world just loves Manny Pacquiao. His emphatic win over Rios raised the expectations of his fans and reopened options for him. Against the American, the Filipino champion was clinical, methodical and thorough. Even minus the ability—or willingness—to put away his opponent, there was no doubting the fight still left in him.

There’s a score to settle with Timothy Bradley. There’s “unfinished business” with Marquez, who sent him to dreamland with the phantom punch that served to remind him and the world at large that the Pacman was human, after all. And there are still millions of dollars to be made from a megafight with Mayweather—a dream deal that Arum is moving heaven and earth to put together.

 

But history is replete with stories of champions led to ruin by the idea of one last fight and one last paycheck, those whose hubris carried them well past their prime and into ignominious retirement. Joe Louis, and even the great Muhammad Ali, fought one fight too many, needing one more payday to settle debts and taxes. Mike Tyson, who squandered his earnings of $300 million before his career was over, declared bankruptcy a decade ago.

Closer to home, Rolando Navarrete, the “bad boy from Dadiangas,” became a bum and was in constant trouble with the law after spending what was left of his earnings on booze and drugs. Fortunately, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, the greatest Filipino boxing champion until Pacquiao came along, had the venerable Lope “Papa” Sarreal Sr. as his manager, father-in-law and business adviser to guide him to a post-boxing career in business and philanthropy.

Pacquiao may have his money now, but he does not have a Papa Sarreal to look after him when his fight days are over. No one in his large entourage - not Chavit Singson, not Lito Atienza, not even the spiritual advisers who, his mother claimed, had been milking her son dry - comes close to doing for Pacquiao what Sarreal did for Elorde.

Some say Pacquiao is broke, and by his own high-flying standards he probably is. There’s a high cost to maintaining his political career, his luxury homes, his fleet of cars and yachts, and his ever-growing entourage, to speak nothing of the managers, trainers, gofers, and other members of his fight crew with whom he has to share his earnings. And the taxman is constantly on his tail.

But Pacquiao’s a champion again! And more than ever, it seems time for him to get down to serious work as the evangelist and public servant that he attempts to reinvent himself to be. His record as a lawmaker is highlighted by mediocrity and pales in comparison with his fight record. Well into his second term, he has nothing to show as far as legislation is concerned.

 

For his own good and for the good of the constituents he is sworn to serve, it’s time to quit boxing while the quitting is good. Sometimes, a champion’s greatness is measured by his ability to acknowledge that his time is up. Inquirer.net

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