A Pacquiao primer for Americans: Why Filipino’s mystique is no mystery
Pacquiao gives away one of 500 turkeys on Sunday
in Los Angeles (AP Photo/Ric Francis)
Manny Pacquiao is widely acknowledged to be the best Asian boxer ever and the most revered living person in the Philippines, population 90 million. Millions of Filipino-Americans also worship him. Heck, many Mexican fans are claiming Manny as one of their own as well because of his determined, courageous style and the plaintive qualities citizens of the two nations share.
But I’m not taking it for granted that most American fans – especially those who follow only the heavyweights – understand what makes Pacquiao the equal (and more) of Oscar De La Hoya as a draw for their Dec. 6 welterweight megafight in Las Vegas. So let’s boil it down:
- Pacquiao is an impossibly quick left-hander who forces non-stop action and lands power punches with the quickest release in the sport. He is resourceful and versatile. He takes a solid punch and is never deterred.
- In his signature fight, against the imperious Mexican featherweight legend Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, Pacquiao was barely billed in what was seen as filler on Barrera’s schedule. As Pacquiao, moving up in weight class from super-bantamweight, quickly proved he was too fast for Barrera to handle, it first seemed Barrera might be hard-pressed to win a decision, but by mid-fight the little underdog was humiliating Barrera and it became thinkable he might stop him. Which he did, in the 11th round.
- Pacquiao has been a superstar since then, winning most of his dramatic brawls with the likes of Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jorge Solis and Oscar Larios, and winning Mexican fans in the process. Some even try to assess Manny’s place in the pantheon of the Mexican fighters he resembles, such as southpaw featherweight Vicente Saldivar and bantamweights Carlos Zarate and Ruben Olivares.
- Pacquiao, who turns 30 on Dec. 17, is an unprecedented source of pride in the Philippines, where the fanaticism is Beatles-level and the interest is so exhaustive that yours truly is finding the vast majority of his readership there. Yet he still projects humility, in stark contrast to De La Hoya’s aristocratic charm, as I’ll illustrate in my next article. Pacquiao remains a man of the people.
- He truly has a legendary mystique. The 5,000 Filipinos who have tickets for the big fight won’t be the only reason you can expect the crowd to be overwhelmingly pro-Pacquiao.