Pac­quiao a sym­bol of hope

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MANILA — Em­manuel “Manny” Pac­quiao is idolised by tens of mil­lions in the poverty-af­flicted Philip­pines both for his punch­ing power and as a na­tional icon of hope af­ter ris­ing from the streets to the pin­na­cle of world boxing.

Known to his coun­try­men in the Asian ar­chi­pel­ago as “The Na­tional Fist”, Pac­man fights un­de­feated Amer­i­can Floyd May­weather on 2 May to de­cide who is the world’s best “pound­for-pound” boxer.

To most of the Philip­pines’ pop­u­la­tion of al­most 100 mil­lion, Pac­quiao, win­ner of an un­par­al­lelled eight world cham­pi­onships in dif­fer­ent weight di­vi­sions, is a well-loved na­tional sym­bol, living proof that suc­cess is pos­si­ble with hard work even if you are dirt-poor.

The reign­ing World Boxing Or­ga­ni­za­tion wel­ter­weight cham­pion was the Philip­pines’ top tax­payer in 2013, and For­tune pegged him as the world’s 11th best-paid sports­man with 2014 earn­ings of $41.8 mil­lion.

He is now also elected mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, a Chris­tian preacher, an im­prob­a­ble pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player and coach, and celebrity en­dorser for prod­ucts rang­ing from karaoke mi­cro­phones to piz­zas, beer and cars.

Friends say the 36-year-old is gen­er­ous to a fault, shar­ing his riches with friends as well as the down­trod­den.

Some Filipinos see him as a fu­ture Philip­pine pres­i­dent, some­thing that he ad­mits he has con- sidered. He will be el­i­gi­ble once he turns 40, when he is ex­pected to have hung up his gloves.

A 1.70 me­tre (5ft 7in) south­paw, he be­gan his pro­fes­sional ring ca­reer as a teenager, and in 20 years has com­piled a 57-52 win-loss-draw record with 38 knock­outs.

In the ring he is a vol­ume power puncher who uses light- ning foot­work to cre­ate an­gles with which to de­liver flur­ries, the likes of which have felled Os­car de la Hoya, Ricky Hat­ton, Miguel Cotto, Erik Mo­rales and Marco An­to­nio Bar­rera.

The son of a dead­beat fa­ther, Pac­quiao dropped out of high school at 14, sold dough­nuts on the road­side and be­came a gro­cery stacker to help his mother sup­port two younger sib­lings. He be­came a pro boxer at 17. The sport bought him fame, power, in­flu­ence and wealth, and with it the vices: booze, gam­bling, cock­fight­ing and ro­man­tic links to beau­ti­ful film stars that at one point nearly wrecked his mar­riage.

But in 2012 he found reli­gion and he sold his shares in a Manila casino, night­club and bar, giv­ing away the pro­ceeds to em­ploy­ees. He also gave away his 1 000-plus fight­ing cocks to friends.

Nowa­days he joins Bi­ble-read­ing classes al­most ev­ery day, of­ten cites God as the source of his suc­cess and wears a rosary around his neck be­fore and af­ter fights.

De­spite his riches, Pac­quiao re­mains a hum­ble char­ac­ter with a com­mon touch, com­plete with a thick ac­cent that is usual with those born in the cen­tral and south­ern Philip­pines.

Last Novem­ber Pac­quiao an­nounced he had apol­o­gised to neigh­bours and would sell his $9 mil­lion man­sion in one of Manila’s swanki­est ar­eas af­ter they com­plained about his vis­i­tors wear­ing shabby cloth­ing.

“I may be as rich as some of them here, but my life­style re­mains the same and so is my heart. I am just a sim­ple man. I will never change that,” he said. — Reuters

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