He’s come about as far as one can, from the place of dire poverty in the Philippines wherein his father took the radical step, in a drunken haze, of killing a dog Manny had taken in, and then eating it.
Yes, Pacman relayed that story in his autobiography; please ponder that the next time you hearken back to your childhood, and you traffic in memory lane that wasn’t the idyllic candyland you would have wished for.
“He killed my dog,” Pacquiao wrote. “He took the puppy I found and killed it. To a young boy, that was unforgivable — it was stealing something I loved, which is far more terrible than stealing money.”
So keep that in mind as you comprehend that on Monday, the Senator from Sarangani Province visited the campus of the University of Oxford to speak to the Oxford Union at their invitation.
The Oxford Union was founded in 1823, and is regarded as the most prestigious student society in the world. The Oxford Union, the largest society at the University of Oxford, has hosted world leaders in every field, including Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Roger Bannister, and former U.S. Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Carter, to name a few. Add Pacman to the list.
Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) served two terms as congressman, and then was elected to a Philippine Senate seat in May 2016, capturing over 16 million votes nationally. A three-time Fighter of the Year and the Boxing Writers Association of America’s reigning Fighter of the Decade, Pacquiao regained the welterweight title for a fourth time on July 15 by knocking out defending WBA world champion Lucas Matthyssee. The fight took place at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duerte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad were in attendance, marking the first time two heads of state attended a championship boxing event.
To be certain, Duterte stands as a controversial figure in the geopolitical sphere, and for certain, Pacquiao himself has periodically made headlines antithetical to his general reputation as a humble warrior and servant to the masses and his faith. He’s drawn fire for speaking condescendingly of homosexuals, and has a cadre of anti-fans who don’t agree with the way he uses his faith to condone judgements of persons and behaviors outside the realm of his faith circle.
Also, many fight fans are of the mind that they’d prefer if Manny, and other oldsters like Floyd Mayweather, would shuffle off into the sunset, and allow fresh blood to emerge in the pugilism ring. But Pacman, who turns 40 on Dec. 17, seems set on making the most of his final chapter in the pro boxing racket. He dumped Michael Koncz, cut ties with Top Rank, and aligned with Al Haymon, the unseen but omnipresent dealmaker whose power grab on the sport has re-solidified, it seems, after it looked like his PBC push hit a wall. He cemented content deals with FOX and Showtime, and continues to get revenue streams from all angles. And a new one, from Pacquiao’s promotions moving forward.
At Oxford, Pacman showed his signature shy grin as he took to the lectern. For about 12 minutes, he touched on varied subjects. He clued non-fight fans into his résumé bullet points, and admitted that he felt intimidated in accepting this speaking invite. From Winston Churchill to Ronald Reagan to Elton John, here he stands, with the equivalent of a sixth form education.
“Be careful, I’m not that easy to floor,” he cracked, when admitting that he came to Oxford as an underdog. He stated that he chose as his main subject to focus on how his educational path was so off the beaten path.
“I had to work since the age of seven to help my mother feed my three siblings and me,” he said, telling listeners that on days when food was ultra scarce, he’d drink extra water to try and feel fuller. “My mind and spirit were never hungry, I read everything I could get my hands on,” including reading signs he’d pass while a passenger in a car. He’d read the labels on boxes when sleeping on the street, as the chill permeated his body and he fought its entry into his soul.
“Never, ever quit, think of David and Goliath, and think of me,” he asked the assembled body.
He told the listeners that he doesn’t get angry at anyone judging that he’s ill-equipped to be a Senator, because he knows that because he comes from such a humble place, he’s well placed to be able to know what policies best serve others who have not been born on third base, or even second. “I was a fighter long before I set foot in a boxing ring,” he said. He used to fight for a piece of bread and is thankful he now commands out-sized paychecks.
Pacman had the audience in hand as he talked about the admiration he feels for people who soldier on post experiencing tragedy, after being kayoed by typhoons and other natural disasters. Spirits were bent but not broken, he said, and he wants to continue to serve the public and try to use his high profile to aid them in times of need. He wants to keep fighting, in the ring and outside, to be a living fairy tale that will help the downtrodden keep on keeping on.
My three cents: No, Manny is not perfect. He has mis-stepped and will again. But the man does indeed serve as a powerful catalyst to summon hope and faith in those in dire need. And that is admirable, especially in this age, where there is so much upheaval and angst in the world.