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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson



MANNY DESERVES OLYMPIC HONOR, SAYS MONICO

By Joaquin Henson
PhilBoxing.com
08 Aug 2008




[Special to PhilBoxing.com] -- Never in the history of the Olympics has a professional boxer been accorded the honor of being the flag bearer for a country in the traditional inaugural parade to open the Summer Games.

So when WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao leads the Philippine delegation in holding up the colors at the 91,000-seat National “Bird’s Nest” Stadium in Beijing tonight, he will make history.

Pacquiao’s role was assigned by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself and the announcement came after credentials had been finalized for Filipino athletes, officials and guests.

Chef de mission Rep. Monico Puentevella had to work backwards in arranging for Pacquiao’s accreditation which by luck, was facilitated by the late admission of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz as a wildcard entry. Diaz’ addition as the country’s 15th athlete allowed for three more slots in the delegation.

Swimmer Miguel Molina was previously designated as the flag bearer but without hesitation, gave up the honor for Pacquiao.

Puentevella lauded Molina for his patriotic gesture of sacrifice.

“While Manny’s not a participant in the Olympics, he epitomizes the ultimate Pinoy athlete, having gained unprecedented records and success as a world champion,” said Puentevella yesterday in a text from Beijing .

“The flag bearer represents the best of any country plus the fact that any Juan de la Cruz identifies sports today with Manny. There is no greater once-in-a-lifetime honor our country can give than to make Manny walk beside Federer, Nadal, Kobe , LeBron and the others in the same arena. Manny deserves it.”

Pacquiao’s designation comes at a time when boxing is under fire as a dangerous sport in the Olympic calendar. While sports like basketball and tennis are now permitted to play pros in the Olympics, boxing will likely remain amateur because the disparity in competitive levels could lead to tragic consequences.

Filipino priest Fr. Marlon Beof, who celebrates Holy Mass in Pacquiao’s hotel room before and after every major fight, said the sight of the world champion holding the flag is a source of pride and inspiration to every Filipino athlete.

“I imagine that, as our Filipino athletes march on that grand opening Olympic parade, they will have a glimpse of Manny from time to time,” said Fr. Beof in an e-mail from his Augustinian Recollect Friars parish in Suffern , New York .

“This should make them aware of the presence and support of the most prestigious athlete in our land today. Even for a few moments, this should make them aware of his triumphs and achievements through hard work, dedication and faith in God while making them feel proud that he is at the frontline of the delegation and holds our national flag. Eventually, this will inspire them more as the competition starts. May we have a medal!”

Fr. Beof said on Pacquiao’s part, he will relish the honor of carrying the flag during the ceremonies.

“This should make Manny realize more the meaning and impact of a Manny Pacquiao to the Filipino athlete and to the Filipino people,” continued Fr. Beof. “As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.”

As Pacquiao’s spiritual adviser, Fr. Beof has become close to the fighter and was in his hotel suite playing chess before the call came to go to the arena for the David Diaz fight last June.

“Manny was so calm as we played chess while I was getting tense, surely not from playing chess,” said Fr. Beof. “I was thinking, in a few moments, he will be fighting as a lightweight for the first time. But he was very calm, very focused. I joked him about his killer moves in chess, like his lethal combinations in the ring. He told me not to worry because checkmate was coming up. In a few minutes, Manny checkmated me just as his friend Edward (Lura) announced, ‘Boss, it’s time to go.’”


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