By Ingming Aberia
Even without his equally pressing job as a “Public Servant,” Manny Pacquiao’s job as a professional boxer has grown complicated at a rate he probably has not seen coming.
When his stature was not yet this big, Pacquiao used to tell media about his livelihood: “My job is to fight. As a professional boxer, it is my responsibility to make the fans happy.”
Pacquiao knows what he is talking about. When he was young life was so hard that he knew how to value every ounce of hard-earned money. That was then. Today, he can afford to dissipate tons of cash, but he would still understand that boxing fans spend equally good hard-earned money to watch his fights. He swears it’s his responsibility to ensure they get their money’s worth every time they see him perform.
Now that his profile has grown this big, Pacquiao could very well say the same and mean it. The problem is his publics—at least a small part of it which has access to the big part of the noise, the media—doesn’t want him to just fight; it wants him to fight the fighters The Pacman may not have appetite for.
The context in which Pacquiao said “my job is to fight” was about how he understood the roles being played by each member of Team Pacquiao. Freddie Roach, the coach, prepares him for each of his fights; Bob Arum’s Top Rank, the promoter, puts a fighter in front of him; Pacquiao, the fighter, fights, etc.
For a time the arrangement worked without a whimper of a problem. Until Pacquiao started selling an average of 1 million buys per outing. The team obviously was getting rich. And everyone knew who were making them rich—the fans, of course. Now some people in media, thinking it’s their function to represent (if not take the cudgels for the interests of) the fans, want to have a say in who Pacquiao should fight.
The “meddling,” of course, has its reasons. The last three of Pacquiao’s opponents, starting with Miguel Cotto in late 2009, had been Arum-promoted fighters. Three, it seemed, had been too much of an Arum imposition. The agitation by which the boxing community had expressed its wish—which eventually had the tone of a demand—for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight right after Pacquiao’s win over Cotto, was matched by calls for Arum and Pacquiao to look beyond Top Rank’s cage—as the Mayweather fight momentarily recedes to the back of everybody’s minds—in choosing a non-Mayweather opponent.
But the complication in Pacquiao’s job does not come about because Arum’s fighters were of lesser quality, and therefore offered less entertainment value to the detriment of fans’ interest, or because fighters represented by promoters other than Arum were necessarily of higher quality. It also does not come about because Pacquiao has failed to make the fans happy.
Michael Rosenthal, writing for the The Ring Blog on Pacquiao’s latest win (over Antonio Margarito), said: “Pacquiao could’ve won every second of every round by pecking away at Margarito from the outside and avoiding his rushes by using his quick feet, as he did numerous times when the Mexican tried to trap him in a corner or against ropes…. That’s not Pacquiao, though. He purposely entered dangerous situations—fighting Margarito inside, laying on the ropes—because, as he said, “I wanted to make people happy.” As a result, he added some drama to the fight by taking a few unnecessary punches.
The complication in Pacquiao’s job comes about because there is money on the table and people think Arum—whose job, like any promoter, is to make the most money for his fighters—has not left anything on it for his kind. And that is where, in the case of the controversy generated by the Pacquiao’s May 7, 2011 fight against Shane Mosley, most of the criticism is coming from. Media people—who may or may not be sympathetic to the financial interests of Arum’s rivals—can discuss their likes or dislikes, the merits or demerits, of match-ups involving Pacquiao (some went to the extent of rallying the fans to boycott that Mosley fight), but concerns over the perceived quality-deficient Pacquiao-Mosley fight would simply be a cover for frustrations by people not having a share of the pie.
Let’s roll some videos in our minds: Compare the quality of any of Pacquiao’s last three fights with the one fight that currently holds the record for most number of pay-per-view buys—the 2007 Oscar dela Hoya-Floyd Mayweather fight. Don’t throw a Pacquiao fight away (regardless of who the opponent is) unless you find him in these three fights wanting.
As I mentioned in a previous column, Manny Pacquiao is at a time when—like a farmer who toiled long and hard, is now ready to reap what he sowed—every payday nets him an amount no other boxer (except Floyd Mayweather Jr) in the world today is capable of collecting. He has become such a phenomenon that the opportunity of being anointed as his opponent inside the ring already constitutes a jackpot for the lucky one. Those who feel they have the slimmest of chances to land that Pacquiao fight scramble among themselves for a spot in the starting block.
Those who are not lucky enough to win the Pacquiao sweepstakes, as some writers put it, may have reasons to complain. But those reasons can never be about lack of quality in a Pacquiao fight (again regardless of who the opponent is), even if this is the perception his detractors are trying to magnify.
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Hermilando “Ingming” Duque Aberia is a sports fan and a literary enthusiast. He has written a book titled “Manny Pacquiao: Story Bigger Than Boxing.” He has a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and is a practitioner in social development work.