What is the end game for Manny Pacquiao?

Pacquiao wins unanimous decision in defense of his welterweight world title at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Photos by Wendell Alinea/MP Promotions

Pacquiao wins unanimous decision in defense of his welterweight world title at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Photos by Wendell Alinea/MP Promotions

By Rene Pastor

First off, congratulations to Manny Pacquiao for his unanimous decision win against Adrien Broner. Sports journalists are highlighting how Pacquiao, 40, “cruised to victory” against his much younger opponent who is 29.

I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to Pacquiao. While I was truly happy he won yet again, I am bothered that he continues to subject his body to savage battering at his age.

I am one of legions of Filipinos who have seen the highs and the lows of this boxer who brought fame for the country. He is the best Pinoy fighter ever, surpassing even the sainted Flash Elorde in the pantheon of Filipino boxers. Unlike other Pinoy boxers who would win a world title, defend it once or twice and then fail as they lose their edge, Pacquiao remained driven and won – sometimes lost — in spectacular fashion.

The Philippines would literally shut down and crime come to a halt when he has a match as millions filed into theaters to watch live feeds of his fights in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas.

And then he ran for the Philippine Senate and won handily. Now, he is thinking of becoming President and he would have a shot at that after President Rodrigo Duterte indicated he wanted Pacquiao to succeed him.

“Many of you know me as a legendary boxer, and I’m proud of that,” Pacquiao told a Chinese publication. “However, that journey was not always easy. When I was younger, I became a fighter because I had to survive. I had nothing. I had no one to depend on except myself. I realized that boxing was something I was good at, and I trained hard so that I could keep myself and my family alive.”

He is now 40 years old and still getting in the ring to fight.

The punch that almost floored Adrien Broner.

The punch that almost floored Adrien Broner.

Pacquiao the eight-division title boxer is, of course, much much bigger than Pacquiao the public official. He spouts off against gays and LGBT folks, has little understanding of legislation, and shows for all to see that public policy is something way over his weight grade. He is an ardent supporter of capital punishment, and parrots biblical passages in arguing for putting criminals to death. He has tried his hand at professional basketball, and, at one time, threw himself into acting.

In a Philippine political culture that is notable for its banality and tolerance of corruption, Pacquiao is more an oddity than anything else. Of course, if he wins the presidency, all bets are off. The thing is, one cannot cleave Pacquiao the boxer from Pacquiao the senator and wannabe-president. That likely accounts for the mixed feelings I have for the man. He made Filipinos proud as an athlete in a sports where you become outstanding and win renown by bashing the other guy into unconsciousness.

In a world where Filipinos are sometimes taken for granted, Pacquiao gave us a fleeting feeling of immense pride, no matter how perverse boxing is as a sport.

When he retires from fighting – and it will come sooner than later – I hope he finds contentment in the pride Filipinos feel toward him. I wish he would momentarily step back from his coterie of whisperers admonishing him to do this, do that, and be only with himself and his family as they reflect on what’s next. He can remain a politician in Congress, build a school where he can mentor young boxers who want to follow him to the ring, do product endorsements, etc. So many things to do with the time he has. Whatever it is, he will try to be good at it. But he needs to remove from his head the notion that he is a savior of the country.

I want desperately for Pacquiao’s legacy and legend to be preserved and honored. Let him be that rare sports hero to retire while still on top and revered by his fans.

© The FilAm 2019

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