By Alex P. Vidal
Amid calls for his retirement, Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), at 32 and a multi-millionaire to boot, continues to bedazzle the boxing world with his impressive winning streak and unrestrained collection of world crowns in different weight divisions.
With his vast wealth and reputation, Pacquiao, a father of four and a sports celebrity, could enjoy the so-called “fruits of his labor” by retiring comfortably and preserving his legacy as the greatest and most popular prizefighter in his generation.
But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
As long as Bob Arum wants him to fight, it doesn’t matter whether he is 18 or 64 years old. It doesn’t matter whether the opponent is Jack The Ripper or Hercules. Beholden to the Top Rank, Pacquiao is.
Their “marriage of convenience” is a source of envy and speculations in the world of sports and entertainment in glittering Las Vegas.
For Arum, dear is boxing but dearer is Manny Pacquiao whom he calls “the greatest fighter ever”.
Even his mother, Dionisia, a laundry woman-turn-actress, couldn’t stop the son-promoter tandem from further engaging in brutal but sanctioned dogfights against multi-national foes Pacquiao met only for the first time in his life.
“Dili na ko! Dili na gyud ko! Tama na! (I can’t bear it anymore! That’s enough),” Dionisia, who once “fainted” at ringside while watching her son either pummeling an opponent into submission or was the one being bamboozled from pillar to post, would always bewail.
Pacquiao’s temerity to flirt with disaster and ignore a motherly concern is elaborate.
“My job is to train and fight whoever my promoter picks to fight against me,” the five feet and six inches southpaw has repeatedly declared.
Seventy nine-year-old Arum is the top guy in the Las Vegas-based Top Rank, which charted the Filipino’s fistic career into amazing heights ever since he left the Oriental Pacific region after losing his WBC 112-lb jewels on a shock 3rd round TKO loss to an unheralded Medgoen 3-K Battery in Pakpanag Metropolitan Stadium, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand on Sept. 19, 1999, to invade the Land of Opportunity.
After grabbing the fighter’s management rights from the Golden Boy in a legal tug-of-war, Arum now holds the imprimatur for both of Pacquiao’s title defenses and non-title engagements in the United States.
Because of his marketing value and confidence in Arum, the scuttlebutt is that Pacquiao is willing to face even a wrestler armed with a revolver in a no-holds barred rumble.
And when it rains, it pours.
After fighting the aging but still dangerous Sugar Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs) on May 7 in Las Vegas, Arum, et al (the wily old man’s associates that include TV behemoth HBO of the “pay-per-view” fame) will continue to negotiate and pit the battle-scarred Filipino congressman cum fighter against potentially destructive opponents that include Floyd Mayweather Jr. and possibly Juan Manuel Marquez and Andre Berto.
With his propensity to break records and establish mind-boggling precedents, Pacquiao could end up fighting a middleweight ribcracker and risk his life and limbs.
Pacquiao’s situation reminds us of Barney Ross, a former world lightweight champion who was known in the 1930’s as “the fighter who wouldn’t quit”.
As a world champion in 1932, Ross (72-4-3, 22 KOs) won fight after fight. “The money rolled in and Ross spent it as fast it came,” recalled historian Ken Lane in “Champions All”.
Then in 1934, Ross decided to fight welterweight terror Jimmy McLarnin (Filipino flyweight champion Pancho Villa’s conqueror).
McLarnin (54-11-3, 21 KOs) weighed 20 pounds more than Ross, but Ross beat him anyway. He became the first professional fighter to hold two championship titles at the same time.
Still unbeaten in 1938, Ross challenged the younger Henry Armstrong (149- 21-10, 101 KOs), who was faster and stronger. By the 10th round, Ross was losing. The referee and Ross’ manager wanted to stop the fight. But Ross refused. He wanted to lose like a champion. It was the worst beating he had ever taken.
It was after his humiliation from Armstrong when he decided to quit as a prizefighter and go into business.
Pacquiao could avert experiencing a worst beating in his life by hanging up his gloves – win or lose against Mosley—and focus on his job as lawmaker or engage into business like Ross.
Whether Bob Arum and the boxer’s bloodthirsty fans like it or don’t, preserving Pacquiao’s main faculties and enjoying the millions of dollars he earned in the ring with his family is Pacquiao’s call alone.
After all, something brilliant could come out from his brains as a lawmaker if they were not permanently damaged.