Saturday, 7 November 2009

Pacman shows RP ‘small but mighty’

By Francis Thimsel J. Ochoa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20091107-234739/Pacman-shows-RP-small-but-mighty
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HOLLYWOOD — Manny's time has come.

The Filipino ring icon, generally regarded as the world’s pound-for-pound champion, graces the cover of Time Magazine Asia edition—where he is featured in a five-page story—that will hit the US and global magazine stands this weekend.

Not only is he the first Filipino to grace the weekly magazine’s cover since the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, regarded as the icon of democracy, but he is also the first boxer in 20 years to be accorded the honor, after Mike Tyson.

“It’s amazing,” Manny Pacquiao said of the recognition that continues to collect at his feet since plowing through top-caliber opposition across different weight classes. “I never expected that to happen.”

The Filipino, Asia’s No. 1 boxer and revered in his home country with unparalleled fervor, is set to face Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, where he will try to become the first boxer to win titles in seven different weight categories.

In an interview with Fightnews.com, Pacquiao expressed elation at gracing the cover of the prestigious magazine. His picture on the cover is accompanied by the words: “The Great Hope: Why Manny Pacquiao is more than just the world’s best boxer.”

‘Small but mighty country’

“I absolutely had no idea that when I started my career in boxing, to provide a better life for myself and my family, that I would now be where I am today and on the cover of TIME Magazine,” Pacquiao told Fightnews.com.

“A fighter’s dream is to win a world title and gain financial stability. But what is happening to me now is the most humbling experience of my life.”

In the interview, which is making its rounds online, Pacquiao said the world boxing stage had given him the chance to show the Philippines to be a “small but mighty country.”

“It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and to let everyone know we are a small but mighty country,” he said. “I have great pride for all of the Filipinos living throughout the world and it is these people that I fight for each and every time I step into the ring.”

A demigod

Pacquiao has never failed to dedicate his matches to the Filipino people, and they have responded with an unmatched dedication to support him in every battle.

And the Time story, which refers to Pacquiao as the “face for the selfless,” captures exactly how his countrymen have reciprocated his affections for them:

“In the Philippines, Pacquiao is a demigod. The claim goes that when his fights are broadcast live, the crime rate plummets because everyone in the country is glued to a screen.”

Like Muhammad Ali

Top Rank chief Bob Arum, the fighter’s promoter, even likened Pacquiao to Muhammad Ali, undoubtedly the greatest boxer across all eras.

But take the iconic Ali out of the picture, and this era clearly belongs to Pacquiao, a reign that began when he destroyed former boxing poster boy Oscar De La Hoya in eight brutal rounds in December last year.

Time’s decision to put Pacquiao on its cover validates that claim.

The magazine story, titled “The Meaning of Manny,” traces the boxer’s colorful life, from the time he spent sleeping on cardboard boxes in street corners in Mindanao, to the fateful day in 2001 when—fighting as a substitute—he won his US world title debut in shocking fashion via a knockout victory over Lehlo Ledwaba.

Punch could’ve floored Tyson

Then on to his current run of smashing victories, the latest of which was a two-round knockout of British star Ricky Hatton last May.

His victory over Hatton has become one of boxing’s favorite highlight reels, his looping left finisher described by his upcoming opponent as a punch that “would’ve knocked out even Mike Tyson.”

That victory capped a string of wins that netted for Pacquiao three world titles in different weight classes—super featherweight (via decision against Juan Manuel Marquez), lightweight (9th round KO against David Diaz) and light welterweight (Hatton).

Fight of his life

Pacquiao, in fact, hasn’t lost since four years ago, when he dropped the first match of a thrilling trilogy against Mexican legend Erik Morales via unanimous decision. Pacquiao won the next two fights of that trilogy—both by knockout.

The Time story also explores his religious side and his entry into the political fray, which it describes as the “fight of his life.”

But it is unlikely that the result of his political battle will end up defining his legacy. In defying the limitations initially set on him by poverty, Manny Pacquiao has already won his biggest battle.

As trainer Freddie Roach was quoted in the story, Pacquiao “has nothing more to prove.”

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