After the Pacquiao Bradley debacle, I stayed true to my word. Not another pay-per-view dollar from me. Pacquiao Marquez IV to me seemed like Manny’s “Groundhog Day.” Haven’t we been through that before?
But indeed, there was a new scene we didn’t expect.
Manny Pacquiao lying face down on the canvas.
It’s an image we rarely saw–until Saturday.
He stayed down a long time.
But within minutes our champion was back up, on his feet. Just like the Frank Sinatra song, “That’s Life.”
In one of the post-fight interviews in the ring, almost immediately after (the one I saw was with ESPN) Pacquiao was asked the simple question: Was he ready for another?
Pacquiao didn’t flinch. “Why not,” said the Filipino champion. “My job is to fight.”
And with those words, I think I finally saw the truth.
I don’t think he was punch-drunk. Mind you, I was one of those who for the last three Pacquiao fights have suggested that Manny retire with his brains intact. What can I say, I’m an ardent fan of boxing, but I value a man’s brains.
I also recognized the charismatic power of Pacquiao and saw him four years ago as someone who could rally the Philippines and maybe even spark the country with a massive dose of the pride that comes from being a world champion.
Isn’t that a bigger challenge than fisting a boastful Floyd Mayweather into submission?
Beyond the ring, there’s real life. Manny Pacquiao could be the leader of the Philippines.
That idea first came to me when I noticed the power of Manny’s charisma rising at the same time another politician was acting like an international rock star—Barack Obama.
Based on charisma and appeal, I even called him the Philippines’ Obama.
That may have been my dream. And maybe it was Manny’s too, for a brief second, as he did run and win a congressional seat in his Philippine district.
But I don’t think it’s Manny’s dream after his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.
Pacquiao-Marquez IV has totally changed my view.
Manny Pacquiao is not the savior of Philippine politics. He is not the statesman, the diplomat, the political leader. He’s not the future of Philippine politics or governance.
He’s a fighter. He’s a guy who works in satin underwear with his name on it.
And hearing him talk from the weigh-in to the post-fight interviews has made me see that all too clearly.
It’s like the knockout blow from Juan Manuel Marquez knocked fans like me to their senses.
I also think it knocked a little reality into Pacquiao’s life.
Pac-man’s passion, his life, and his future is in the ring. Not in the Philippine legislature. Not in Malacanang.
It’s not in movies, nor music, either.
Pacquiao said it himself, repeatedly, even after the most vicious punishment any human could take in a sanctioned athletic event.
“I’m a fighter,” he told ESPN repeatedly. “It’s my job. I’m willing to fight.”
What did we expect after that fight? A cowering Manny? No way.
“I never expected that punch,” Manny said about the right-hand smash from Marquez that Manny walked into squarely in the 6th round. “He got me (with) a good one.”
And then the question came again. Do you want another fight, a rematch?
“Why not?” he answered.
The questioner came back, “Do you want it?”
“Of course,” Manny said. And then he repeated himself, “I’m a fighter. My job is to fight.”
It would have been nice had Manny broken into a bit of diplomatic rhetoric. A line about “what a great champion Marquez is…” would have worked there, too. Marquez, in his post-fight interview talked about celebrating the victory for Mexicans around the world. Maybe Manny could have responded with a message to all the global Filipinos out there, that despite the defeat, they should all keep their chins up. Surely, there should have been some kind of message to those Filipinos ravaged by the recent typhoon in Mindinao. Now that was a knockout blow.
At the weigh-in, even HBO’s Larry Merchant threw Pacquiao a softball on the typhoon to give Manny a chance to enlarge his scope beyond boxing.
Manny showed his concern, but it just wasn’t that rhetorical flourish akin to a jab-straight-hook combo. That’s not who Manny is. But he can do wonders in the ring.
Even after the knockout blow, in his interview Manny knew his business. His true calling.
And you could sense he wanted another round.
Reports indicate that the brutal blow from Marquez may have given Pacquiao a concussion.
But when you are a boxer, concussions are as natural as blood, sweat and spittle. Those punches aren’t love taps to the head.
It’s all part of the world in which Manny belongs and is paid well for being part of. Where else is he going to get a $26 million dollar pay day just for showing up to work. That’s dollars, not pesos. His pay-per-view share, undoubtedly in the millions, is all extra. (You can watch it free this Saturday on HBO).
So I will give up my crusade insisting that Manny quit to save his brains and take on the mantle of being the Philippines’ rock star political leader.
Manny’s role goes beyond politics. He’s above all that. People go from movies and TV to politics all the time. But boxing champions are different.
They are our mythical warriors, cultural heroes. Manny doesn’t need Malacanang. He’s already head datu to Filipinos everywhere. That’s enough burden for one man. He doesn’t need the pettiness of politics. Pacquiao leads from the ring. And when he’s done, he’ll take his role as national folk hero, buddy, and humanitarian. National spirit lifter.
He doesn’t have to be Joseph Estrada.
But why rush things.
Manny turns just 34 on Dec. 17th. He’ll have a good birthday. And I’m sure an even better Christmas.
And, besides, you heard him indicate, he’s not done.
He’s a fighter. So maybe for a change we’ll really see him train like his life depended on it. And dedicate himself to showing the world that the champion can get back up and answer the bell again.
That’s what Pacquiao-Marquez IV has spawned.
Forget Mayweather. Forget the others. The franchise is set and so is the need—for Pacquiao-Marquez V.