On Saturday, November 13, 2010, a friend invited me to watch the Pacquiao-Margarito boxing fight on pay-per-view TV. I jumped at the opportunity to watch my hero, the greatest Filipino boxer of all times, the pound-by-pound king of the ring, the fighter of the decade as voted by boxing writers, and now the world champion in eight divisions—Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.
For the record, here are the eight divisions in which he became the champion: Flyweight (112 pounds), Junior Featherweight (122 lb), Featherweight (126 lb), Junior Lightweight (130 lb), Lightweight (135 lb), Junior Welterweight (140 lb), Welterweight (147 lb), and Super Welterweight (154 lb). He moved up the weight divisions as he ran out of challengers. About 50 years ago, my hero was the late Filipino boxer Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who was the world champion in the Junior Lightweight Division from 1960 to 1967.
Antonio “Tijuana Tornado” Margarito was not a slouch. He was the reigning WBC Super Welterweight champion with a record of 38 wins (27 by knockouts) and six losses. Pacquiao’s record is 51-3-2 (38 KOs). Margarito was almost five inches taller than Pacquiao, and he outweighed Manny by seventeen pounds at fight time.
Therefore, he was the biggest boxer in size and weight whom Pacquiao ever faced in the ring—a proverbial David-and-Goliath encounter.
Like the thousands and thousands of Filipinos watching around the world, I had a squeamish and careful confidence that my hero would prevail. We know that Manny is a faster and technically better boxer with a deadly left that had sent reigning champions such as Erik Morales and Oscar de la Hoya to the floor.
Still, anything can happen in a championship – a misstep, a lucky punch. And so we watched with some trepidation. We worried whether he could reach the taller opponent.
Pacquiao’s superior speed manifested itself immediately, inflicting a cut below Margarito’s right eye in the early rounds. In the fourth round, he almost knocked down Margarito. The fight chomped through the 12th round with Pacquiao’s winning almost every round. In the 11th round, Pacquiao looked at the referee a number of times, perhaps prompting him to discontinue the bloody fight. Although Margarito was still throwing punches and advancing, his face was bloody and the right eye swollen and nearly shut. In the last round, Pacquiao slowed down, obviously just coasting to victory.
In the interview after the fight, Pacquiao said that boxing is not for killing and that he did not want to damage Margarito permanently. His opponent was not interviewed because he was rushed to the hospital to fix a fractured right orbital bone. I wondered if Margarito felt that his injury was worth the $3 million he netted from the fight. I understand that Manny made anywhere from $15 to $30 million for the fight. His trainer/coach Freddie Roach certainly made a bundle too.
Of course, Pacquiao deserved every penny out of the event; but more than the money, he has won the hearts of boxing aficionados around the world and has remained a darling of the Filipino nation. His election to the Philippine Congress representing the district of Sarangani in May this year is a testimony of the love many Filipino people have for him. A highschool dropout, Pacquiao has an honorary doctor of humanities conferred on him by the Southwestern University in Cebu. He was previously awarded the highest award given to a Filipino citizen, namely the Order of Sikatuna. With his current victory, the country is running out of awards for him; perhaps a Congressional Medal of Honor would suffice.
There have been rumors of political parties’ trying to convince Pacquiao to run for president of the Philippines. For this he has to wait nine years. The Philippine Constitution specifies that a candidate for president must be a Filipino, literate, and at least 40 years old; and he is only 31. He did take a certificate course on Legislation and Governance at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) as a preparation for his running for Congress.
Manny Pacquiao has the stuff that wins hearts and makes heroes. He came from a broken family, was dirt poor, worked hard, and is a devout religious person. He shows humility, grace, and compassion even in victory. He makes the cross before each round and prayed in his corner before and after the match. He was very gracious in praising the toughness of his opponent after each fight. I have never seen him jump on the ropes and beat his chest proclaiming himself the greatest, the way many boxing champs often do. He is truly a hero every Filipino can be proud of. Mabuhay ka, Manny Pacquiao!