Sun, 10 Apr 2016
Las Vegas - How do you walk away from something that you love doing? How do you walk away from something that has given you plenty, that has given you more than you could have imagined and asked for? How do you want to be remembered?
This might be Manny Pacquiao's thoughts going to Saturday night's (Sunday morning in the Philippines) bout with Timothy Bradley, their third, and possibly his final fight.
With talks of retirement after this bout, Pacquiao's stellar and legendary career as one of the sports' best is about to end. The 37 year old ring icon whose first purse was a mere 100 pesos (about $2) reached boxing's highest peak with his exciting fighting style. This has brought him gold across his waist in the form of title belts and gold in his pockets - the almighty dollar.
Win or lose, Pacquiao will earn 20 million dollars this Saturday. He pocketed the biggest payday of his career when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year in what was dubbed as 'The Fight of the Century' - an undisclosed nine figure paycheck.
Forbes Magazine estimated that his career earnings totaled 400 million dollars from boxing and endorsements after the Mayweather fight last year. This does not include his income from his businesses, show business appearances, network gigs and product endorsements in the Philippines.
Boxing has brought him from the streets of the impoverished province of General Santos to the presence of presidents, princes, state leaders and beauty queens.
His hard to pronounce name became natural utterance to the Western tongue, even to those who do not follow boxing.
And on Saturday night, all of this will probably end.
Tonight may be the last time Pacquiao enters the ring. The call of politics has caught his eyes. His desire to become a member of the Philippine Senate is a goal of him since dipping his toes in the political field in 2007 - a losing congressional bid in his home city of General Santos. If the current congressman of Sarangani wins in the national elections next month, the duties of being a senator might pull him away from boxing.
If this is his last fight, Pacquiao will run away from it all - the money, the fame, the adulation and the gold. Not to take a well deserved rest after an arduous and risky prizefighting career but to shift to being a full time politician in the Philippines.
And being a politician in this country of a hundred million is not particularly an endearing thing to the public because of the prevalent graft and corruption that some members of the senate have been reportedly involved with. From the battles of the ring, Pacquiao will immerse himself in a bloodier arena that is Philippine politics. This is not exactly what you call retiring.
His motives to enter politics was the same desire that brought him to boxing - battling the pangs of poverty.
The young Pacquiao was a cigarette vendor, a bakery helper, a vagabond before he was a million dollar athlete. He was a day-to-day survivor looking for the next meal to eat and a shelter for his weary body at the end of the day.
This hunger fuels his early days as a fighter. It is his country's flag and people later paired with the millions that he is to earn every time he steps in the squared ring were the results of his hard work and talent.
Serving the country's poor as a member of the senate will be his next role according to him.
But if tonight is indeed his last fight, then we have been privileged to be witnesses to a great athlete, a great story, a great man whose likes we probably will never see again in our lifetime.
We cheered him whenever he fought, We chanted "Manny, Manny" on the top of our lungs in the arena and in front of our televisions. We cried when he was knocked out cold in the canvas by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. We protested when he was robbed of victories such as the first Bradley fight. We defended him when he was under personal attacks by Mayweather Jr. and with his differences with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. We admire his generosity and philanthropy. We followed every news and gossip about his personal life in the media and his social media handles and lately we disagreed and some even ridiculed him with his careless statements regarding the LGBT community.
In the end, it is not just about his boxing accomplishments, it's not about his status as a world icon, it's not his rags to riches story that we will remember of.
Manny Pacquiao made us proud of our skin, our heritage, our culture, our flag, our land and our people.
Pinoy Pride is his enduring legacy.
(Photo: Manny Pacquiao surveys the MGM Garden Arena before Saturday's third fight with Tim Bradley. If he retires tonight, this is the last time he steps in the ring that has been the site of plenty of his highlight bouts. Photo by Coach Marvin Somodio)
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