Manny Pacquaio: Class Act

boxingBy John Wight - Manny Pacquaio has more than earned the right to retire from the sport of boxing and liberate himself from the clutch of hangers-on who follow him wherever he goes, demanding his time, energy, kindness, and money. The manner in which he responded to the biggest act of grand larceny ever suffered by one individual proved beyond doubt that he is a man and an athlete for whom the term ‘class act’ was invented. Boxing will certainly miss him when he goes, though judging by his demeanour in the ring after the Bradley debacle it appears less certain that he will miss boxing.

The axiom that familiarity breeds contempt has been evident over the past few fights involving Pacquaio, with more and more critical voices being raised over his legacy, ability, and those allegations that just won’t go away regarding PEDs. These are the bitter fruits of success in a world in which envy and hate are emotional counterparts to the bling, bluster, and bullshit that elite boxing has become.

For over a decade the Filipino sensation has entertained, inspired, and dominated the sport at every weight he’s fought at, doing so with a smile on his face and respect for every one of his opponents. Indeed, the humility he’s exuded throughout his career bears witness to a fighter who has never forgotten the poverty whence he came.. More importantly he has never forgotten the poor he left behind, evident in the huge sums he has donated to help alleviate their plight in his home town of General Santos City.

His foray into politics in the Philippines was motivated by a desire to serve his people. He could have opted to relocate to the States and grow fat, yet instead chose to throw himself into a career every bit as demanding, if not more, than the one that made him famous.

They say that all political careers end in failure. In this regard politics mirrors boxing, a sport where today’s champions are tomorrows’ bums, with compliments and praise turning to vilification and denigration overnight. The internet has brought with it the rise of the troll, in fact an entire army of them, people whose connection to reality and sanity is evidently tenuous at best. But as they say, when you open the window you let in the flies.

But all the abuse on internet forums that Manny has come in for increasingly can’t change the fact that this unassuming kid from a poverty stricken background in one of the most poverty stricken societies in the world rose to become one of the greatest fighters to grace the sport of boxing, in the process winning the hearts and minds of an entire country, not forgetting millions around the world. In the land of the free people who look like Manny Pacquaio are usually consigned to the bottom rung of the social and economic ladder, destined to be busboys, cleaners and day labourers – and that’s if they’re lucky. This is why he is a genuine people’s champion who fought for the little guy, the invisible legions of the poor and downtrodden in the Philippines, the United States, and all over the world.

Timothy Bradley was not to blame for what took place in Las Vegas. In many ways, he is as much a victim as Pacquiao. Years and years of dedicated application to the hardest sport there is brought him to the pinnacle when he stepped into the ring to face a real live boxing legend and icon. He left the ring with the belt but without any of the respect or credit that a world champion is due. The crescendo of boos which met his victory will remain with him for the rest of his life, as will the knowledge that his place in history will largely be defined by the injustice visited on his more illustrious opponent.

The sad state of the sport was revealed in all of its ugliness in the aftermath of the fight. Judging apart, the sight of Bob Arum attempting to assert the moral high ground by lambasting the result was stomach churning to behold. The sell-by-date of these boxing tycoons has long since passed, and the need to clean up the sport has never been more evident. As is there is far too much power in far too little hands in professional boxing, with the danger of it descending to the level of professional wrestling - all spectacle and no substance - very real.

Manny doesn’t need to go on. He has other more important matters to occupy him now. The much anticipated fight between him and Floyd Mayweather Jnr should have taken place two years ago. Now the excitement attached to the prospect of the fight has dissipated. This is why this writer would like to see him walk away from boxing and leave the haters behind.

Article posted on 13.06.2012

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