Saturday, December 6, 2008

Manny Pacquiao

About ten years ago, I would be roused from sleep on a late Wednesday night at the incessant prodding of my father. It was fight night on teevee and he couldn't wait to watch his favorite boxing show. My old man needed company whenever he's up for the late night fights but on that particular occasion, he was more adamant, almost desperate that I watch the show, literally dragging me from bed. The reason for his eagerness was a 16 year old kid who had started to make waves in the sport. I had caught a few of his fights and what I saw was pretty impressive but I wouldn't even in my most generous day, call the kid world class.

He was awkward and freakishly built like a lollipop with the oversized head on a stick for body. The kid was starving and it was pretty obvious. Like most fighters here in the Philippines, They come from poor background, mostly unfed, neglected runaways who stray into some gym and found a way to unload their angst and bitternes at the world. Just my opinion. I have never ever been big on boxing anyway, or at least not the way my father had been all his life. The idea of two men bashing each other's head was not at all entertaining to me.

Fast forward to the present, my father is gone and I am sitting here a nervous wreck on the eve of the country's biggest fight to date. I say the country's biggest fight because when Manny Pacman Pacquiao faces Oscar de la Hoya at almost exactly the same time in Las Vegas tomorrow, it is not one man making a bid for personal glory. I know this has been said many times before but I can't help saying it again. Everytime the Pacman fights, the entire nation of 85-million filipinos prepare to go to war with him, sharing the pain from every punch that catches Manny, his heartaches, and the inevitable blood that would be spilled since Manny's fights are consistently brutal and violent, may as well be the blood and heartaches of his every countryman.

Boxing, and sports for that matter was never a big deal for me. Born unathletic and ungainly, I couldn't even win the simplest street game in the neighborhood as a kid. The other children would consistently kick my butt at play, whether the game involves some running or jumping, and some muscle power needs to be had which I suspect, I don't have. I even suspect I was born without reflexes and balance, a suspicion reinforced by my tripping on the stage at sixth grade while accepting my grade school diploma. Yet on this particular day and at this particular stage of my life, I have become converted to sports, at least as a fanatical observer in the most unlikely game of boxing and all because my heart goes out to Manny Pacquiao. He made me a believer.

Unlike the ordinary sport fan, I wouldn't say my deep affection for Manny is borne out of my understanding and appreciation of the sport of boxing. Without him, boxing wouldn't mean much to me. He was bigger than the sport itself, and larger than life. To me Manny Pacquiao represents the last ray of hope in so bleak a moment in the history of our nation, when all hope it seems is gone. With his rise to stardom, and the success he continues to reap, we realize after a long while that we are capable of fulfilling the dreams we set to accomplish for ourselves. For the first time in years, a filipino competes with the best in the world, and he is not looked down as an underdog but a force to reckon with, an equal of any other man, if not the superior one.

The good thing about it is despite his lack of education, he just finished sixth grade, Manny is a paragon of decency and character. For the first time in years, we see a great boxer who does not thrive on bad publicity, or scandalous behavior, he does not even cuss or badmouth even the most hated, the most hateful opponent, but treats the other man with respect due him. The last time I checked on the web, he had reportedly given Mike Tyson free tickets to his fight, the report insinuating the former heavyweight champion who had fallen in bad times couldn't afford to pay his way to the fight. It was just the natural thing for Manny to do that.

Best of all, he fights for his people. Manny has assumed a very daunting responsibility in dedicating his every effort to the people instead of downplaying the significance of the fight's outcome to a personal matter between him and his opponent. The stakes are already insurmountable the way it is, and Manny took it to an even higher plane by getting the entire nation involved. We share his grief and his victory and even his wealth to some extent The long queue of thousands of poor people lining up outside his house to receive dole outs at his every homecoming will attest to the generosity of the boy who once had nothing to eat and no one to ask for help. I wish my father is alive today to see how far his favorite boxer has come.

So here I am, trying to write something sensible notwithstanding the nervouness clouding my mind, derailing all my faculties for sensible thought. I will cheer hard and pray harder for Manny tomorrow. My heart will be broken if he should lose. It's my fight too.


JD from Hoeno said...

I hadn't heard the bit about Tyson and the tickets but that's neat. In boxing, you never know but I worry that Oscar will just be too big. I don't really think it's a fair fight in that regard---BUT, if Manny wins, I'll be very happy for him, considering it's a good call. Oscar is iron-jawed and only been stopped once on a liver shot. That was by a man fighting all the way at light heavyweight now (Bernard Hopkins), so I don't think Manny has much chance at a true knock out on Oscar. Either way, there will be action and there will be no shame for Manny who always gives everything. Good luck to him. He's made a very gutsy move just taking the fight with a natural 154 pounder about five inches taller. Manny is the real p4p champ right now in my book.

Parvez Ahmed said...

I did not like this one. You write much better than this.

"Hanging on a Hyphen" said...

I know. Sports are not my cup of tea. Thanks anyway...

kathleenmaher said...

It's good to stretch, though. I enjoyed it, although I don't think I'd like watching a true boxing match.

Do you ever do memes? I have a separate blog for them and have been tagged for a 7 Things meme. Most people don't put up pictures, so it can be an easy post. If it's not your thing, though, no worries.

Go here:

Jeunelle Foster said...

Nothing says excitement like Boxing. Oh boy I sure remember the good old days in front of the television watching Mohammed Ali
and the excitement of the match, the bells, the cheer, the sweat, the grin, the punches, the blood the whole game.
After the match we went to bed still pretending to throw punches at each other and couldn't stop talking till we fell asleep, sometimes with our boxing gloves still on.

Jeff Baker said...

You've been on my mind man. How are you? jb