Pacquiao: The triumph of the spirit

THE boxing arena has all the great literary themes. Money, power, romance get played out in the careers of the these elite marquee fighters—perhaps a little bigger, a little  gaudier than the strict facts of fistic delights.

A boxer’s skills erode a lot quicker in this crazy roulette like no other sports can offer. Here today, gone tomorrow, millions richer. The peacock today is a feather duster tomorrow. The best fighter lives accelerated lives. It is a very rare instance that they remain untouched by events.

Their lot is not always as brimming with possibilities. Contender after contender absorb the blows of men far superior than them—to advance other’s careers—and in whatever level fighters exist. They have to co-exist with boxing adjuncts: an entourage made up of creatures with excesses, connivance of international corporation, misappropriated stories some scamming on grand scales by suit and tie smoothies, on whom they mistakenly confer credibility and respect. Throw on the added pleasure of great characters, disparate men and women with varied backgrounds filled with their own dreams. What makes the fighting world so intriguing is the multilevel on which it is played and the relative fluidity  of commerce.

Boxing is a brutal, abominable game—the human beast hitting itself. Yet, as much as you reject and condemn it, boxing always excites in the end. When you’re there at the ringside, you get more and more excited, until you find yourself caught up in it, taking part, urging them on. There’s a tremendous fascination in boxing. It lasts only some few minutes and afterwards, you’re ashamed that you, let go.

Armed with the courage of ignorance in boxing reporting, I prologued my first championship coverage  in 2007, and got it on print only because I was the editor-in-chief of the now defunct Philippine Times. Veteran lensman Sid Guererro enchanted the colorless, odorless story.

Today, with eight years of having covered each where he was victorious, I have ambivalent feelings. When the paradox of this brute sport is invoked, that which dictated that the very best, ban and does soar to breathtaking heights. The words ripple beyond it, when you put in a mans’s care and concern for a sport, and the pride he has developed in doing it well.

Because when you watch the champs fight well, boxing is not violence. In his title  defenses, I see him, make a conversation—an exchange between two men, who talk to each other with their hands instead of their voices—hitting at the ear, nose, mouth, the belly, instead of hitting at each others minds.

Boxing is a noble art. When Manny Pacquiao fights in the ring, I do not see him expressing brutality, instead he expresses a complex, subtle nature like that of a true intellectual,  a real honorable and forthright human being. He is a pugilist that is less brutal or not brutal at all, after a fight. Because with his fists he transforms violence into something beautiful, noble and disciplined. It’s a real triumph of the spirit. He thinks of himself as being a good man in the Christian sense: with a clear consciousness of what is good and what is evil. With his concept of the good, he resembles that of the Christians.

Sometimes he can be keen and hard like the tip of a wedge, and can be soft and caring like a warm glove. We have watched him through the years, fight a myriad of notables in the fistic arena. Hard pummeling, fast hands that can cut you up with a head butt, each with different skills and technique, but the Pacman always finds a strategy of his own craft to beat them to a pulp. Brain against brain, art against art, the appeal and fascination of those bouts gets beyond his expertise. Flicking out the jabs as he dishes out stinging body shots, his hands smoother than his adversary, pummeling and landing wherever he wants them to be—against the ropes or flat on the floor, heads that are turned to the side, his monster left, dynamite right , putting together  combinations, flicking out circling, throwing a greater variety of punches.

In his latest flight, he sent Algieri flying across the ring, on 12 rounds of slick and stick with moving  techniques to keep the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight at the packed Cotai arena of the Venetia, Macau last Saturday, Nov. 22. He exhibited a boxing clinch before 13,202 fans (90 are Filipinos). Pacman fought 64 times, with 57 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws and eight times a world champion.

As a boxer, the Champ is subject to the same changing winds that move him inside or outside the ring. In some bouts, fighting with the killer instinct,  he was once dubbed as Mexican assassin. In another bout, he tasted the salty pains of injustice. Through it all, he showed more than physical strength, but the resilience of spirit in the easy smile, the gracious ease before strangers. He is a boxer whose success seemed practically pre ordained.

I could sing a sonnet every time he does that celebratory shuffle of his feet after the final bell, and the crowd goes into a deafening roar.

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