Pacquiao’s Success: Model for Filipino Search for Respect

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   On the broadcast of the Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera fight last Saturday, Manny was described by adjectives such as “exciting” and “explosive,” while Barrera was described as “legendary.” That’s all well and good, but for Pacquiao, in the midst of his prime, the description properly depicts a supremely talented fighting machine. For Barrera, it appears to be code for “great once, but no longer.”
   Little wonder it is that pre-fight promotion centered on Pacquiao’s distractions and training difficulties. They certainly couldn’t portray Barrera as a caged lion set to be unleashed.

   Barrera announced his retirement after the fight, ending his 18 year career at 63-6 (42), although cynics could say that he began his new life 12 rounds earlier, barely putting forth an effort worthy of the fight’s promotional tag – “Will to Win.” Pacquiao is simply too blazing fast, powerful and skilled for the Mexican icon, who despite a Hall of Fame career couldn’t have beaten Pacquiao on his best day.

   Barrera did relatively well for three rounds, keeping the fight at his pace, but as the rounds went by the walk to the corner began to seem longer after each succeeding round. Barrera began to wear the facial expression of a man faced with the inevitable. He landed a good shot in the fifth that got Pacquiao’s attention, but, with few exceptions, his next flush shot was on the break in the 11th and cost him a point.

   Barrera had turned into the antithesis of all that had made him great throughout his career. He fought merely for survival against the whirlwind Filipino who starched him four years ago. It was more than just a case of offering his opponent too much respect.

   After all, it was just a few months ago that Barrera fought competitively in a losing effort against Juan Manuel Marquez. The difference, it appears, was that Marquez was never a threat to knock him out while Pacquiao could at any given moment. Barrera hadn’t spent 18 years in the ring without recognizing the difference. If he felt that he could have traded blows successfully with Pacquiao he would have.

   So, for Manny, the end came as a convincing 12 round decision by scores of 118-109 (twice) and 115-112. He appeared to be about 80% of his best and some might say that a more aggressive opponent might have pressed Manny and stolen a victory. But Manny in his prime is just so above that – he would have just taken it up a notch and still dominated whoever was in front of him.

   But to those to whom much has been given in talent, much is expected, at least in the Philippines. There was an article in the Cebu Daily News in the Philippines that was entitled, “Pacquiao Wins But Some of His Fans Lose.” The article was devoted to the fans who lost money after betting that Manny would triumph with an early knockout.

   The Philippine Enquirer reported that traffic was 40% of normal during the fight, and the Mobil Patrol Group said that there were four minor alarms compared to a norm of 10 to 18. This drop in activity, legal or otherwise, is unsurpassed in sports in any country.

   Now everyone wants to know the name of Pacquiao’s next opponent. Most hardcore fans want it to be the aforementioned Marquez if he gets by Rocky Juarez, as he should in November. Other candidates include Joan Guzman, Humberto Soto, and Edwin Valero.
   But Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach threw us a curve when they announced that Manny might be heading to the lightweight division after having difficulty in making weight this time. That would put WBC 135 pound belt holder David Diaz in the picture. It was Diaz who was hand selected to fight Erik Morales in the legend’s finale, mainly because he is considered the softest touch amongst the lightweight titlists.

   Marquez, who hit the deck three times and still held Manny to a draw in 2004, is the best bet both in terms of competition and box office. The weight is immaterial; Pacquiao could fight Marquez just as well at 135 as 130. But, long term, it remains to be seen if Manny can remain as dominant at lightweight as 130.

   And as previously stated, Filipinos expect dominance from Manny. Make no mistake, they are pleased with his win over Pacquiao, but they would have preferred the devastation that Manny inflicted on Barrera in 2003.

   The Philippine Enquirer published an opinion column under “Political Tidbits,” by Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, stating, “…it was obvious to this layman that …Pacquiao was fighting below par. Many of his deadly punches were not hitting their target and Antonio Barrera himself acknowledged he didn’t feel many of them. Let’s just say that Pacquiao fought far better fights in the past, including his memorable knock-out wins, whereas Barrera obviously prepared hard, although the Mexican’s best wasn’t enough for the Filipino champ even at his worst.
   “There are stories about Pacquiao’s late nights out in Los Angeles bars and an affair with a movie actress ect. He has gotten all kinds of movie offers. If these are true, then our champ seems to lack the self-discipline that’s an absolute must among sports people. It might be good for him to consider retiring as champ.”

   Now that’s tough criticism, coming as it is from the political section. I hate to bring it up under the circumstances, but Manny can’t retire as champ, because he isn’t one, unless you count that phony WBC International title.

   One reason why so much is expected from Pacquiao is that he is a symbol of Filipino dominance after a history of occupation by Spain, the Japanese, and the United States. The Philippines have been unjustly cast as the doormats of the world.

   If you don’t think so, consider the furor over the much publicized “Desperate Housewives” affair. The September 30 premiere had a scene in which Teri Hatcher’s character made disparaging comments regarding the quality of a Philippine medical diploma.

   ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Company, ended up sending an official apology to the Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs after a barrage of complaints, and has also agreed to remove the scene from rebroadcasts and DVD editions. I think however, that the larger question is whatever made them think that they could get away with it from the start? A derogatory, racist joke of that magnitude would be a guaranteed lawsuit by any one of a number of ethnic groups, yet somehow ABC decided that it was no problem to denigrate Filipinos.

   ABC didn’t even realize the firestorm that the offensive joke would create until they began receiving comments from emails, letters, and phone calls, not to mention the fact that close to 85,000 people signed an online petition protesting the defamatory scene.

   There are 19,000 Philippine trained practicing physicians in the United States. What on earth were the ABC people thinking?

   The one good thing about the offense is that now ABC and others know the boundaries, thanks to the incredible backlash. The Filipinos are no longer doormats and they collectively let the world know it. Perhaps, they received some measure of inspiration from Manny Pacquiao.

Michael Swann



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