All roads lead to Las Vegas this Saturday, April 9, as Filipino boxing champ Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao faces Timothy Bradley once again.

The spirit of boxing cannot be easily defined, because long after the score has lost importance, we remember how the fights were.  Long after the date has faded, we remember how the bouts had been—the color, mood, speed, style, lightning jabs and dynamite lefts.  People also get reminded about the courage, fatigue, challenge, the grace, adversaries that boasted, who knelt dazed in the end zone.

One by one, the great fighters dropped to their knees before Pacquiao—Barrera, Marquez, Morales, Solis and Diaz.  Didn’t he dismantle De La Hoya into humiliation? The pride of England, Hatton, was flattened out cold in round 2 before his head hit the canvas.

And how could we forget Cotto, his pretty face swollen like a pumpkin? It’s no wonder Pacquiao was dubbed The Destroyer or Mexican Assassin.  However, the most gratifying title given to him is Kamao ng Bayan (The Nation’s Fist).

It is a known fact that whenever Pacquiao fights there is no crime or violence in the the Philippines.  Killing stops and thieves take a break.  Well, a heart attack can happen here and there, as the whole nation pauses to watch him fight.

Critics collectively agree his speed and power are gifts for the man who grew up in such poverty and often slept on a cardboard box.  Poverty’s gift of hunger, endurance and the capacity to suffer in order to survive, were the keys to success that honed him to his glorious state today.

The essence of boxing is what we seek to capture and record.  It might be the decisive moment which makes the bout last in your memory, or perhaps the mood of a place they have not seen except in the photographs and stories we convey.

Like every fight, voices soared building the crowd into a hysterical frenzy. It was pride for that little big Filipino, to see him come so far.  His victories are a source of extreme national pride because we all knew he was not just fighting for himself—he was fighting for a nation.

At an after fight press conference when he bagged his seventh belt at the MGM Grand, we asked him this question:

“So, Mr. Pacquiao, what else are you living for?”

His reply was typical of his gentle nature, gentle, giving and forgiving.  This, coming from a man whose job involves violence and infliction of injury.  This has always been the main center of every story I wrote about him (and there were lots).

We already know that people look up to him as they trek to his home when he returns for yet another successful boxing match in the United States.  Their hearts filled with faith, hope, their pains and their needs.   He hardly says “no” to anyone, but that was a couple of years back, during the heydays of his boxing career.

Today, we realize the essence of his answer to my question.  We see his new world, new accomplishments, expectancy and possibilities.  We also see the dreams that enriched, influenced and dignified the Filipino soul and how faith sustained him, which he embodied.

Among the principles that he adheres is that, “Money does not always buy results but it’s the kindness and compassion for a fellow human being, dignity, courage and hope, the readiness to come to terms with life surprises…Maraming sorpresa ang buhay.”

Every Christmas, New Year, anniversary and birthday celebrations, he says that “for all these happy events that bring forth numerous gifts, kind thoughts, prayers, unassailable devotion and loyalty is the awareness that all these will vanish without the complete love and understanding of Mrs. Jinky Pacquiao and his children‘s love.”

He wants nothing more except that tod see his children grow up loving one another especially their mother. He also wants pure joy and a sense of honor when they grow up. In addition, Pacquiao wishes only peace and goodwill towards everyone in his country, not only for the constituents that he represents in Congress.

The US Boxing Writers Association, has honored him as the Fighter of the Decade. Time magazine put him on the list of the most influential people. Pledges abound including surgical and medical missions from doctors.

This writer had already done a lot of cover stories with fawning, hyperventilating banners which sent some of my more reserved colleagues gasp.  All he wants is peace and goodwill towards everyone, anchored on the dictum of faith, hope and charity.

He returns for yet another boxing match here on retirement, and he champ said, “I can not say that I am going to retire. I don’t want to say that, because I don’t know what’s the feeling when you leave boxing.”

And once again, an entire nation will hold its breath.


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