Pacman Rules!

Manny Pacquiao – The greatest of all time

By RONNIE NATHANIELSZ | 12/28/2008 6:16 PM

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To appreciate the greatness of Manny Pacquiao one has to reach into his childhood days to realize where he came from and then proceed to evaluate – and be mesmerized – by what he has achieved not just for himself and his family but for his country and people.

Today, following his masterful conquest of a bewildered “Golden Boy” Oscar de la Hoya, accolades continue to pour in, not from Filipinos alone but from a vast cross-section of boxing writers and broadcasters from around the world and sports fans who have evaluated his performance in relation to other great achievers in the various sports disciplines.

An ESPN Star Sports online poll has seen Pacquiao overwhelm one of the all-time cricketing greats, Sachin “The Little Master” Tendulkar of India in the semi final runoff of the “Champion of Champions.”

To understand the value of such an achievement one must realize that Tendulkar is a demi-God to the Indians, a country of well over 1 billion people, in a sport that spreads across the continents and where millions follow the game with unbridled passion.

Pacquiao, the world’s acknowledged No.1 pound-for-pound fighter comes from a country of some 90 million people and is king of a sport that is believed to be on the decline in terms of its following. The sport when compared to cricket is, to use a boxing term used oftentimes in the Pacquiao-de la Hoya fight, a “mismatch.”

Yet Pacquiao effectively bowled Tendulkar over in impressive fashion which, we believe, is a tribute to the Indians themselves and all cricket-loving individuals who didn’t resort to the force of numbers to ensure a Tendulkar win.

As of last count, the Filipino was way ahead of Malaysia’s Nicol David, the squash player, in the final “Champion of Champions” showdown.

But that’s not all. ESPN, recognized as “the worldwide leader in sports” is also running a parallel contest to choose five outstanding athletes in various disciplines to form a so-called Sports All-Nation Team. As of this writing Pacquiao was way ahead in the top spot with 55.8 percent followed by Beijing Olympic Games swimming sensation Michael Phelps who won eight gold medals with 30.0 percent and Jamaican track superstar Usain Bolt with 22.1 percent.

While Pacquiao’s numbers reflect the diligence of Filipinos who adore Pacquiao in supporting him at every turn, it also recognizes that his achievements in a sometimes brutal and fiercely competitive sport, have no equal.

The prestigious Sports Illustrated Magazine named Pacquiao, the Filipino ring icon and National Treasure “Boxer of the Year.”

Writer Chris Mannix, in his article on the awards said “in boxing, greatness is measured in moments. And in 2008 Manny Pacquiao had a whole lot of them.”

The well-deserved recognition came a day after the world’s leading boxing organization, the World Boxing Council headed by Don Jose Sulaiman, unanimously acclaimed Pacquiao as “The World Boxer of the Year.”

In his gripping piece on the Sports Illustrated (SI) Awards, Mannix referred to what he said was “the brutal, 36 minute war Pacquiao waged” with Juan Manuel Marquez last March in a fight that ended, he noted, “with a bloodied and battered Pacquiao raising his hands and an even bloodier and more battered Marquez sulking in his corner.”

The WBC lightweight battle was referred to as “nine rounds of torture Pacquiao inflicted on David Diaz” in June which Mannix recalls “came to a merciful conclusion only when a broken Diaz could not rise after a whirlwind Pacquiao attack” in the ninth round.

Finally, last December 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas there was what SI refers to as the “bell-to-bell, post-to-post beating of Oscar De La Hoya, boxing’s  franchise player whose career may have ended at Pacquiao’s furious fists. “

Sports Illustrated announced that “for these reasons and more, Manny Pacquiao is’s Fighter of the Year.”

It said Pacquiao accomplished so much and he “did it with style and grace that befits a true champion. Whether he was passing out turkeys to the underprivileged in Los Angeles or cold cash to his adoring fans in the Philippines, Pacquiao became the best ambassador boxing could ever hope for in 2008, as dangerous in the ring as benevolent out of it.”

The editor-in-chief of the prestigious Ring Magazine, acknowledged as the “Bible of Boxing” Nigel Collins visited Manila in 2004 to personally present Pacquiao with the Ring’s featherweight championship belt after his 11-round annihilation of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003.

In a recent item for Robert Cassidy’s blog in, Collins recalled that visit.

He wrote “Manny was already the most famous and most popular person in the country. The fact that I presented the belt at Malacañang Palace, with President Arroyo as host, showed the high esteem in which he is held by all Filipinos. The whole experience was surreal. But since then Manny mania has reached an astronomical level. In fact, I don’t think there’s even been anything quite like it in the history of sports. Even Muhammad Ali, at the height of his popularity wasn’t as huge as Manny is in the Philippines right now.”

To us, as we told Robert Cassidy, Manny Pacquiao is not just popular with boxing fans or even sports fans. He is a household word among all sectors of Philippine society and his hero-worship cuts across all economic and social classes.

When he fights the nation literally grinds to a halt. There is hardly any traffic on the streets, no crimes are committed, even the New Peoples Army communist rebels and the Muslim insurgents respond to the military’s cessation of hostilities in an informal truce. Every single theater, bar, restaurant, convention centers, office auditoriums and similar venues where Pacquiao’s fights are show are jam-packed with people. Bus and jeepney drivers park their vehicles and gather around roadside TV sets in showrooms and other similar establishments to watch the fight. Even pirated DVD’s of the fight which somehow go on sale hours after the fight are snapped up at roadside vendors makeshift stores.

In this predominantly Catholic country people go to church either early in the morning or in the evenings so they could stay home to watch the fights while parish priests — often drawing lessons from Pacquiao’s performance — insert references in their homily.

Michael Jordan in his prime was popular even in the Philippines but his popularity was part of the popularity of the exciting Chicago Bulls championship team. Pacquiao is a stand-alone icon, not benefiting from the residual popularity of a team or teammates such as Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

To some extent the overwhelming popularity of Pacquiao — who is regularly honored by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, welcomed to the Presidential palace by President Arroyo, mobbed on his return at the airport where millions line the streets for hours waiting to catch a glimpse of Pacquiao — is, and has been — the greatest unifying force in the Philippines .

In a country that is often sharply divided over issues and individuals, Pacquiao is the single unifying force. He is admired by just about every single of the 90 million Filipinos and adored by them all. He is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

Perhaps the one thing that has endeared him to the Filipinos aside from his achievements in the ring is his humility and his religiosity.

He doesn’t stick his tongue out when he scores on a slam dunk or when victory is achieved. Instead, he walks to his fallen opponent as he did in the David Diaz fight and tries to pick him up off the canvas, while in the case of Oscar De La Hoya he gave him a genuine embrace and said “You are still my idol, no matter what happened.”

He prays in his dressing room before walking to the ring, goes down on one knee and prays in his corner before the opening bell and when the fight is over doesn’t prance around the ring beating his chest like a conqueror but rather goes to his corner and prays in an act of thanksgiving for his success and the fact that he has been spared from injury.

When he fights he unfailingly dedicates his fights to his country and people and in a universal gesture says he wants to make people who watch happy, by giving them a good performance. Jordan, for all his remarkable skill and style, didn’t play for a country although he did perform for the US in the Olympics. The admiration for Jordan was skill-based. The love for Pacquiao is based on skill, achievement and his total human dimension.

It would be futile to try and understand Pacquiao’s popularity. You simply cannot put a finger on it.  It boggles the mind.

His popularity is a reflection of the worldwide acclaim he has received which has helped tremendously in bringing honor and respect for the Philippines and Filipinos who are, regrettably and many times unfairly, looked down upon.

He has earned for every other Filipino, recognition and self-respect. That’s more than any single American athlete has done or has been required to do. You salute Americans like Michael Phelps for instance for his remarkable success in the Olympic Games.

Filipinos salute Pacquiao for his success against all odds and his human dimensions plus the fact that a developing country, often maligned, has produced a good and decent young man who, in a sense, rules the world of boxing and in so doing brings immense pride to his nation and people.

Since boxing itself is very popular in the Philippines and there have been a long line of great champions such Pancho Villa, the first world champion from Asia, Ceferino Garcia, who was known for his “bolo punch” and became world middleweight champion, and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who reigned as world junior lightweight champion for almost seven-and-a-half years. Pacquiao has outdone them all.

Besides, he came from among the poor and a broken home but overcame the bondage of his childhood poverty to blaze a trail that no other Filipino or Asian has ever done before. He is simple and down to earth, never turns any fan away and helps the poor often in a quiet but substantial way. He also uses his own life as an example to instill in the poor that with hard-work, dedication and strength of will, they too can overcome. They love him for the inspiration he brings.

Pacquiao also comes at a troubled time in the Philippines where life for many is hard. He helps them forget even for a few hours, their own problems and enables millions to share in his success. Most of all, Filipinos admire his indomitable courage. No matter what the odds, Pacquiao is prepared to face them with absolutely no fear.

SOURCE: ABS-CBN News Online, manny-pacquiao-%E2%80%93-greatest-all-time


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