(This is an editorial I wrote for the July 4 issue of Sun.Star Cebu. This was also picked up by the online website of Manny Pacquiao’s fans, Paclanders.—Candido O. Wenceslao)
Manny Pacquiao got what he wanted—the adulation of a home crowd—by cruising to a unanimous decision win over the outboxed but game Oscar Larios of Mexico last Sunday in their “Mano-a-mano” bout at the Araneta Coliseum.
As in each of his recent successes, Pacquiao is once more being coddled by politicians (for his fame) and by hangers-on (for his money).
A congressional medal here, a ritual of official visits to national and local officials there and, when all the hoopla subsides, the usual cock derbies and late-night outings.
Of course, Manny has all the right to enjoy his millions, but it is time for him to be careful with his spending and consider the motivation of those trying to force themselves on him or those using his fame for their own selfish ends.
Experts predict that Manny still has two to three years of good fight in him before the inevitable decline, unless he does not learn the lessons of other boxing greats.
He may deny it but his failure to knock out Larios can’t be attributed merely to his intention to “go easy” with his opponent or so Filipinos can enjoy a longer fight; his lack of preparation and Larios coming in physically and mentally ready was the bigger culprit.
Pacquiao is fortunate to have a dedicated trainer like Freddie Roach who had to pull him out of the “distractions”—gambling, shooting for commercials, etc.—in the country and “lock” him in the silence of the Wild Card Gym in the United States.
But until when can Roach, who has Parkinson’s disease, be a surrogate father to Pacquiao and for how long can Pacquiao’s body endure the effect of those “distractions” on his body (he was rushed to the hospital once for over-fatigue after late-night outs).
And when the defeats start coming and money stops pouring in, what next?
Some boxing analysts consider Pacquiao, because of the power in his fists, as the smaller and younger version of former world boxing champion Mike Tyson, but where is “Iron Mike” now?
Bankrupt despite the millions of dollars he earned in many of his fights.
One can mention a good number of boxing greats, both international and local, who ended up destitute and, worse, physically handicapped.
But it is better to look for better role models, and for that one need not have to look far from Cebu.
In the time of the transistor radio, or decades before Pacquiao became a household name, there was the champ everybody adored as the “Flash,” a boot black who rose to fame and fortune as an exceptional fighter inside the ring and a gentleman outside of it.
Pacquiao may end up being a greater boxer than Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, but he surely has many things to learn from Flash on how to handle fame and fortune.