Manny Pacquiao and The Temple of Doom!

Rafael Román Martel

Manny Pacquiao has superhuman status in the Philippines. He has brought pride and joy to millions of Filipinos. Just like any hero, his fans prefer to ignore faults and flaws. In boxing the story repeats itself: Wilfredo Gomez, “Chapo” Rosario, Ike Ibeabuchi, Mike Tyson- the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, it seems like Manny Pacquiao is going in that direction.

Adored by his people, they choose to turn their backs to any misdeeds in which the champion incurs damage.

The gambling habits and heavy debts of the champion are commonly known. Bob Arum, his star promoter, sprays him with perks. For Arum, Pacquiao is what the Fountain of Youth was to Ponce de León- it’s just that Arum counts his years in green, and lets others get hurt without any risk for himself. If Pacquiao generates $60 million in one fight, an extremely conservative amount when you count the sale of the fight to other countries, the Pacquiao products like t-shirts, dolls, etc, and the millions generated by Pay Per View, then a few perks like buying a $235,000 car or paying a moderate gambling debt is a nice deal, a nice perky deal. It seems like Arum, unlike Ponce de León, has found the real Fountain of Youth. With the slight but significant difference that Arum’s fountain springs millions of dollars, and just like a fountain, Pacquiao doesn’t ask any questions.

That is because Manny has been too busy with his marital problems. Jinky is not happy. If Jinky gets divorced, Manny will be plummeted into economic abyss. He is already facing some hurdles in paying his bills. He refuses to pay cars. He walks around the Philippines like he owns it. And perhaps he does- that’s up to his fan-cult base. He spends valuable training time dancing with exotic girlfriends without much care about his wife and children, besides the other child his ex-girlfriend claims is his and Manny refuses to pay child support for. The Philippine P goes out on the town- every town that he is in at the moment, that is. He spends lavishly. He gloats about his fame. He tells Arum “I want this” and the magic wand appears, a very expensive magic wand. Arum will recover every penny of Pacquiao’s and the some.

On the other hand, Manny- known in the Cuban community as Manolito Pacquiao- is the new king Midas-he will touch Nike soon to make the multimillion company a mega billion empire. Everybody wants a piece of the champion. He will be worshipped until he falls, and that’s when reality sinks in; ask Roberto Duran. Manny is no Roberto Duran, believe me.

When Roberto beat the Sugar Man in Montreal in 1980 the streets of Panama City weren’t wide enough for his adoring fans. One year later, when he lost to the same super fighter, you could count with your hands the number of Panamanians who would want to shake his hand. Duran would come back and more but he never forgot that lesson. He had helped the people of his barrio, he erected affordable housing buildings for his people. Every time that someone asked him for money he was there for them. The great Joe Louis fashioned a similar life style. They both ended up in a difficult golden age. We all know how much Louis’ generosity cost him. Duran’s stumbling around trying to get a buck to pay for his next meal.

When all seems shiny and green, here comes 2007. The Pacman beat an otherwise unknown Jorge Solis, who fell in the 8th round to never come back to major league boxing. The he took on senior citizen, former great, Marco Antonio Barrera, to beat on him for 12 rounds of a fight in which nothing was proven except that Pacquiao doesn’t have a very good chin. You see, in the 11th round he was hit cleanly coming out of a clinch, and he nearly fell to the
canvas. The referee gave him a break. Notice that by that round, Barrera was fighting in a wheelchair and half blind. This fight took place in the midst of controversy; even Harold Lederman has to comment on Pacquiao’s Vida Loca, spending, gambling, going loco on the town.

To close 2007, the champ made a movie (?) Anak Ng Kumander, directed by none other than Jose “Kaka” Balagtas. And enter Valerie Concepcion, the sweetheart of the Philippines, young, sweet, beautiful. Custom made for an angry Manny Pacquiao. The kiss scene in the movie was so hot that the screens melted. It was then that Jinky Pacquiao, Manny’s estranged wife, sent Valerie a text message, and all hell broke loose. At the same time Donna was left waiting for the Pacquiao Bus with ticket in hand. She made a brilliant reappearance a couple of weeks ago in some steamy pictures dancing and romancing the champ, who should have been training. Oops.

Juan Manuel Marquéz is watching all this with amusement. He just doesn’t believe that a man who he beat fair and square, after being dropped three times in the first round, could pull another victory under the circumstances. Marquéz must be thinking, “this guy’s a mess.” He’s probably right. Marquez is also old. Old people tend to misunderstand 29-year-olds. The Mexican says he’ll fight to the death. I hope he’s not right because if he is, his life could be in danger. Pacquiao’s recklessness carries a big punch, and the pride and encouragement and expectations of a whole country.

Pacquiao’s worst enemy is not good ol’ Marquez, but himself. Beyond that lies the Temple of Doom: Fame. Worshipped by his people beyond any human traits, Pacquiao has become a demigod in Asia. This is good and bad. The good is that a whole country is willing to stop- even war- for one man, one super athlete. The bad is that their hero is believing his own immortality. The ugly could come when his people realize that Manny Pacquiao is just a man, a good fighter, not deserving to fall into the oblivion of The Temple of Doom.


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