Manny Pacquiao fought Brandon Rios at the Grand Venetian in Macau on November 23. For Manny and many Filipinos, more than Pacquiao’s pride was at stake in this match. The Philippines, battered by natural disasters and corruption controversies, is desperately in need of heroes. For many years now Manny Pacquiao played that role perfectly. Born in the humblest of circumstances, his story of becoming one of the most famoust and richest boxers and incredible arsenal boxing tools and techniques are a constant source of pride and inspiration to Filipinos. And what a story it has been.
He moved to Manila at a very young age and worked at odd jobs to survive. He was too scrawny to fight professionally and it took many months of painstaking training using makeshift equipment before he was finally noticed by the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines and included in the national boxing team pool.
The death of close friend Eugene Barutag from injuries sustained in a boxing match inspired Manny to turn professional. From his first professional win versus Enting Ignacio he was undefeated until Rustico Torrecampo gave him a wakeup call with a stunning knockout in his 12th professional fight. Since then, Pacquiao has transformed the industry of boxing with an enviable record of 54 wins against 5 losses and 2 draws and has become one the boxing’s biggest attractions.
His big break came when he stepped in as a late replacement to win against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in 2001 for the IBF Super Bantamweight title. The fight that made the world sit up and take notice, however, was his defining moment against Antonio Barrera in 2003 where he dealt Barrera the only knockout loss of his career and became the first Asian to win world titles in three different weight divisions.
His entered the big time like a pro in 2008 when he stepped into the ring to fight the legendary Oscar de la Hoya for a guaranteed purse of $15 million, a big jump from his previous high of $3 million in his last three fights prior. It is estimated that he also earned between $17-30 million as his share of pay-per-view buys. Gate receipts for the fight was $17 million, the second biggest in boxing history. His subsequent fights all had guaranteed purses in excess of $10 million, the highest being his fourth match with Marquez for $23 million.
That win against de la Hoya cemented his road to boxing superstardom and the singular distinction of being the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions. Sadly, this road hit major bumps when he lost his last two matches, both in 2012.
In June, he lost a controversial split decision to Timothy Bradley. The World Boxing Organization (WBO) reviewed tapes of that fight and the panel declared that Pacquiao should have won, but stopped short of declaring an overturn. However, in December and in the fourth installment of their longstanding rivalry, Juan Manuel Marquez silenced the crowd with deadly blow to Pacquiao’s jaw in the last second of the sixth round.
These two losses colored the backdrop painted by pundits and experts as the Pacquiao vs. Rios matchup approached. Both Marquez and Bradley turned down offers of a rematch with Pacquiao for different reasons, despite being offered record purses. They chose to fight each other, instead. Were they turning up their noses on Manny? Had the brilliance of Pacquiao’s star dimmed?
The pressure was definitely on Manny. Boxing promoter and Top Rank chief executive Bob Arum believed a loss to Brandon Rios would not signal the end of Pacquiao’s boxing career. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said he would have advised Pacquiao to retire should Pacquiao lose a third consecutive time.
Pacquiao was more than equal to the pressure. As the nation’s hashtag in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan was #BangonPilipinas (#RisePhilippines), so was #BangonManny (#RiseManny) the theme of his fight against Rios. It was his chance for redemption after falling twice, and his emphatic win over Brandon Rios was one bright spark of hope in the midst of what has been the darkest moment in recent Philippine history. The message was clear. “If I can do it, so can you.”
If you wish to help the Philippines which recently suffered from the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan, you can do so by visiting the Red Cross website or at ABS CBN. Any amount will go a long way.
Co-Created by Carlos Miguel Cinco
Carlos is a fight sports analyst at Rappler and Editor in Chief at FightCardBoxing. He has been writing since 2008 and has had his work published on numerous websites. He’s a veteran of the Philippine fight scene, and has covered some international events as well. He’s known for his boxing pieces but he also enjoys watching Mixed Martial Arts and does believe that both sports can co-exist without making the other obsolete.
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