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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Manny Pacquiao begins campaign as Freddie Roach talks up Pacquiao-Mayweather

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In New York at the beginning of last weekend – there was a call from the BBC World Service. They wanted to speak on air about Manny Pacquiao, who has returned from fighting duties in the US, to become the electioneering boxer within The Philippines.

They wished to know what I knew of this man at first hand, whose life story of dusty dirt to presidential palaces is the stuff writers published by Barnes & Noble could barely imagine. Great Expectations…War and Peace. Pacquiao the President is a major story…

We talked, they recorded. It was 3am in New York…I had barely slept, but talk of Pacquiao is one of the intriguing features of being in this profession at present. Pacquiao, indeed, is an unknown quantity in parts of the sports world, due to boxing’s propensity in these times to shoot itself in the foot.

Pacquiao, in my 17 years as a journalist, is the most intriguing subject I have worked in, on and around. Intriguing, fascinating, enigmatic. You can keep the guy who hits little white balls along the fairways, and has been exposed as a playboy away from his erudition with a club.

Pacquiao has two clubs for fists, and the circle of interest around him grows ever wider…

Bob Arum, the promoter who is around the ‘National Fist’, as he is known in the Philippines, insists the popularity barely remarkable resemblance with one M. Ali (whom he also promoted), but rather than with all peoples, the adoration of ‘Manny’ emanates from one race.

But there is a touch of the Sinatra about him, too, as Arum remarked recently. No question.

For most boxers, the dysfunctionality in their lives is more akin to the weird fiction in the books of Chuck Palahniuk, like Choke or 7even. Pacquiao has his faults, well-documented in the Filipino media, and involving the occasional rumours of gambling or the attention of a famous actress or two, but given the position he finds himself in, it is remarkable that he feels the desire, the calling to go into politics.

Having spent time around the small band of regular journalists on the MP beat, all good souls and superb news-gatherers and writers (who are, at times, in a difficult position because of the demand from the public of those islands for every shred of possible news…), and those who look after the boxing world which Pacquiao fills, there is a concensus that the man from Mindanao is misguided.

There is something messianic about Pacquiao’s insistence on running for congress, after all. He has lost, for a start, three years ago. And if those who say boxers put their lives at risk in the ring, Pacquiao is certainly, surely, putting his life at risk by running for a political seat.

Asked what my take on this was, and I could only reflect on the feelings that have been expressed to me and around me. When I asked Manny Pacquiao about running for office, he said “for the poor people of the Philippines, because I want to help”. It is a simple, yet far from straightforward plan.

Pacquiao risks losing his legacy of popularity, of being diastracted from his career in the ring, from having too many demands as the one-man welfare state of his district. He may also be drawn into being manipulated to represent a particular view point. We all recall how Muhammad Ali reflected some fairly strange views, the views of others influencing him, at some stages during his career.

Win or lose, it intrigues me. While all this is going on, in the last few hours, in Hollywood, his trainer Freddie Roach has begun talking about Mayweather-Pacquiao going ahead (but Floyd Mayweather must, of course, win that fight with Shane Mosley first on May 1 in Las Vegas). Roach, whatever he may have said, does not believe Mosley will beat Mayweather. Indeed, he knows for Pacquiao to defeat Mayweather he must produce “the perfect fight”. Those are the exact words he used when explaining it to me. The perfect fight.

Roach believes Mayweather-Pacquiao will happen. It most likely will.

But will Pacquiao reach congress, and the murky world of island politics ? I doubt it. His dreams of improving life for the poor in that country are unlikely to be permitted by the ruling class. Life’s imperfect fight.

There are several stories in our archive on Pacquiao’s life and

Pacquiao’s interest in politics.

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