The Fist and the Heart of the Prizefighter

Manny Pacquiao is not just a prized fighter, he is the Pambansang Kamao (the nation’s fist). His heart is open for all of us.

The boxing arena has all the great literary themes: money, power, romance. They 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 called boxing, like no other sports, offer. Here today, gone tomorrow (millions richer). The peacock today; tomorrow a feather duster. So the best fighters live accelerated lives and there are very rare instances when 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 others careers 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 this on with 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 it, 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, that was hot 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 of unlamented memories Veteran lensman. Sid Guererro photos, enchanted the colorless, odorless story.

Today with eight years of having covered each bout where he was victorious, I have ambivalent feelings: when the paradox of this brute’s 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 man’s care and concern for a sport and the pride he has developed in doing it well.

Because when you watch the champ’s 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. They hit at the ear, nose, mouth, the belly, instead of hitting at each other’s minds. Boxing is a noble art, when 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, forthright human being. A pugilist that is less brutal or not brutal at all, after a fight. Because with his fist he transformed d “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, 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 these notables in the fistic arena: hard pummeling ones, fast hands one that can cut you up with a head butt, each with different skills and technique but Pacman always found a strategy of his own craft to beat them into 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 are smoother than his adversary—pummeling and landing wherever he wants him 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 and throwing a greater variety of punches. In his last fight, he sent Algieri flying across the ring after 12 rounds of slick and stick with moving techniques to keep the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight at the packed arena in Macau. Exhibiting himself in front of 13,202 fans (90 percent Filipino) that fight, Pacman fought 64 times— 57 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws. He is an eight-time 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, 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. This boxer’s success practically seemed pre-ordained.

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

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E-mail Mylah at moonlightingmdl@aol.com

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