By Ludwig O. Daza
Manny Pacquiao gained his first world title at the expense of Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand. Chatchai, out of nowhere, recently popped out at the Wildcard Gym to watch Manny spar. Lance Pugmire of LA times mentioned that it was not the first time Chatchai paid a visit to Manny, the latter saying the first time that whenever Chatchai is in town he should drop by the gym.
Whether this recent visit was procured by somebody to inspire Pacquiao or Chatchai came on his own volition is immaterial, because this visit certainly bodes well for Pacquiao. The sight of the man that gave him his first title cannot fail to make him remember his past. The past is the key to his fate with Floyd Mayweather. The time he beat Chatchai, Pacquiao was an entirely different the man. He was hungry then, literally and figuratively. He was hungry for many things, but the hunger that made him what he is today is the hunger to be the best, propelled by his tenacity and warrior spirit and guided by his humility and fear of God.
The sight of Chatchai in the Wildcard Gym can catapult Pacquiao’s memories to those trying years, when after he wrested the crown he would lose it later en route to his second defeat in the hands of Medgoen Singsurat aka 3k Battery.
Now that those hungers have been more than satiated, Pacquiao has to relive those years when he was still a nobody, a dirt-poor that no one expected to gain any accomplishment in life, let alone a decent job. And maybe the ferocious Pacquiao that we knew, devoid of any trappings of fame and fortune, can summon again that boundless energy that by now should be tamed with experience and skill acquired en route to his eight division title.
Whereas Pacquiao’s power in younger days was like carpet-bombing an opponent, I expect Pacquiao in this coming fight to utilize that energy in his hands like a smart bomb. Precise targets must be the order of the day, if he wants to flatten Mayweather.
The people around him today are not the same people that hovered over him before, except probably Buboy Fernandez who I think came only to assist him when he had already made a name for himself, though still below the calibre of Luisito Espinosa.
As Pacquiao soared heights, people of sorts started to gravitate towards him like moths to light. Politicians, boxing promoters, local celebrities and people from all walks of life wanted to have a piece of the man, the new darling of the Philippine sports and media.
His bouts against Gabriel Mira and Nedal Hussein solidified his celebrity status in the local setting. These fights though, still pale in comparison to Espinosa’s bouts with Manuel Medina and Guty Espadas Jr, and not enough to register even a blip in the radar of foreign boxing promoters.
The fighting style then of Pacquiao was one-dimensional, devoid of finesse, and always looking for that left bomb to land. His right hand was a non-factor, serving only as a smokescreen for his left punch.
Filipino boxing fans were not optimistic of his chances in American soil, the cradle of boxing, against solid opponents, especially the always tough Mexican warriors. If he has to have some decent performances outside the Philippines and Southeast Asia, he needs to polish his boxing skills.
After several so-so fights and a little luck, and as fate would have it, Pacquiao finally had the chance to showcase his talent in US on a short notice. Rod Nazario, his manager then, peddled Pacquiao to several boxing trainers in hopes of securing one for his fight with Lehnolo Ledwaba.
But it was to Freddie Roach whom Manny would snuggle like a puppy, and the Father figure-son bond would be developed. Freddie remembered Manny the first time his training mitt met Pacquiao’s punch, “it has a pop like no other, it has that sound of exploding glove”, he said.
Freddie Roach then was virtually unknown in the Philippines, but his partnership with Pacquiao made him equally famous with his protege. He was even more celebrated than any local politician or actors. Today, I believe the name Freddie Roach rings a bell more to the denizens of far flung barrios than to any Philippine senator worth his salt.
In his fight with Lehnolo Ledwaba for a super bantamweight title while entering the ring, Pacquiao’s strides were confident, and he was grinning from ear to ear with nary a trace of fear or hesitation, soaking the cacophony of sounds inside the arena, feeling the magnitude of the event – his first fight in the American soil – and saying probably to himself: “This is it, this is where I belong!”
He delivered a beating to Ledwaba who never knew what hit him, prompting the TV commentator to say these words: “Are we witnessing the coming of a future star?” Indeed a prophetic statement.