Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Former World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman once said, “Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire.”

“All sports have the potential of becoming about much more than athletics, transforming into symbols of a culture’s and country’s mood, insecurities, conflicts, and hopes. But perhaps no sport lends itself to this kind of transposition more than boxing. For the purity of boxing gives it the nature of a blank canvas; there is no playing field or special equipment; the rules are few and easy to understand. There is but two men, facing off with nowhere to go, with only their fists and their determination to decide their fate. Thus boxing easily becomes a metaphor for debates over our values: good vs. evil, immigrant vs. nativist, bravado vs. humility, intellect vs. brute strength,” wrote Brett & Kate McKay on May 30, 2009.
Pacquiao declared as winner

Indeed, Congressman Manny Pacquiao settled a lot of debates in his last fight. He reaffirmed what Ring Magazine had already pronounced: “Pound for pound, he is currently the greatest boxer in the world.” While his trainer Freddie Roach and his promoter, Bob Arum had already asserted it earlier, even Robert Garcia, trainer of Margarito now publicly admits, “He’s the best fighter in the world. He’s just too fast.”

How fast? He actually threw a total of 1069 punches and landed 474. How hard? He unleashed 713 power punches and landed 411. How accurate? It was 44% totally and 58% for the powerful ones. How consistent? In his fight with Clottey, he threw a total of 1231 punches also in 12 rounds.

My barber described Pacquiao’s speed and accuracy as well as Margarito’s fate this way in Tagalog; “Si Manny, pakyaw lahat ng 12 rounds. Walang tinge. Suntok – pasok rito, pasok doon. Mukha ni Tony, MAGA-RITO, maga doon. Battered bog-bog and bewildered. Triple B.”

A Filipino commentator during the fight said, “Ang suntok galing sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao. Wasak ang mukha at namamaga ang eye of the storm – the Tijuana Tornado (alias for Margarito).”

An American broadcaster said, “Pacquiao was turning Margarito’s face into a hamburger.”

It was a dollar to peso exchange. For every punch that Margarito gave, Pacquiao gave back 42.

According to HBO statisticians, Margarito was hit on the right and left of his face 117 and 136 times respectively. His chin received 148 blows and his right and left sides, 50 and 23.

It was a super, fantastic, pugilistic and “brutalistic” display of human skill, strength and intelligence. It was also a demonstration of endurance, courage and Mexican pride in the case of Margarito.

While critics of boxing would easily describe it as “animalistic behavior” Pacquiao certainly softens such attacks to the profession that got him out of poverty through his signs of the cross, kneeling and praying, as well as declaring to the world that he owed everything to God.  When asked by Mario Lopez of Dancing with the Stars why in the 10th and 11th rounds he kept looking at the referee virtually asking him to stop the fight hence, stopping the beating. He said, “Boxing is not about people killing each other.”
Pacquiao interviewed by Mario Lopez

Ringside observers were quite critical of Margarito’s corner and referee, Laurence Cole for not stopping the fight. In fact, a Filipino broadcaster called him at that moment a Cole-hearted person. “I was very close to stopping the fight but every time I attempted, Margarito would fire back punches.”

In her book, Joyce Carol Oates traced the roots of boxing. During the early Olympics and the Panhellenic festivals, boxing was still in its most primitive form: “no rounds, ring, weight classes, rest periods or point systems. A boxer was declared the winner when his opponent could no longer continue and cried uncle.”

According to her, in Ancient Rome, boxing was part of the Gladiator contests where the Gladiators would wrap their hands and forearms with leather straps, studded with metal shards (the cestus) and would battle it out, often until death.

The true birthplace of modern prize fighting is really England where wealthy patrons put huge wagers down on the fights of their chosen pugilists. Rules governing the sport were developed. John Broughton pushed boxing as a cure for “foreign effeminacy” and dubbed it as a “truly British art.” It became a substitute for  the deadly tradition of “dueling” as a way to defend one’s honor. It was also a great leveler for all economic classes.

When it arrived in the United States, its most important advocate was Theodore Roosevelt who himself boxed as a young man throughout college and into his presidency. According to him, “the most powerful, vigorous men of strong animal development must have some way in which their animal spirits can find vent.” The role of boxing in training at the Armed Forces and that of the YMCA was due to Roosevelt’s advocacy.

Boxing then is not necessarily the evil and animalistic sport that its critics would like to portray. It has its own rich history. Included in the Olympics and licensing it as a profession, it has gained worldwide acceptance. In America, a boxer became a politician and in fact, became President of the United States.

Pacquiao has excelled in his first chosen profession. His first title was in the 112-pound flyweight division. Then he won titles at 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147, and of course, the latest one which is the 154-pound junior middleweight division. That’s a total of 8 titles. No other boxer in history ever accomplished such a feat. He is definitely the best offensive fighter of all time and arguably the greatest fighter ever.

Congressman Pacquiao

Pacquiao is also concurrently a politician. Elected as a Congressman in the Sarangani province of the Philippines by a landslide, he now has to perform as fast, as hard, as effective and as efficient as he was as a boxer.

Politics, especially in a developing country like the Philippines, means poverty alleviation, prosperity and progress, peace, people empowerment, and the pursuit of happiness. To some, it also means pork barrel. He joined the government with great political capital: popular public support.

During the fight, the Philippines as a nation stood still. Crime rate was virtually zero. The criminals and the law enforcement officers watched the fight. The military declared a ceasefire and the rebels chose to watch. All the institutions suspended operations just to watch. Congressmen who did not go to Texas also opted to watch. Even P-Noy who was attending an APEC conference found time to watch.

How will Pacquiao channel this popularity and goodwill as a public servant? Will he use it to help alleviate poverty? To the poor he represents hope. He has become an inspiration and rags to riches model. Will he help negotiate peace? Will he reject the pork or will he use it for projects helping the poor? Will he fight corruption as aggressively? Will he lead an empowered people in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity?

As we listened to the post-fight interview of Pacquiao, my barber said, “I am very proud of my former governor. Behind every successful fight of Pacquiao, is my governor.”

“Why is that? Can you prove it?” I asked him.

“Look.” As he pointed to Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and other Filipino politicians as they stood “behind” Pacquiao for the entire world to see.

Pacquiao and supporters behind him

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