By Alex P. Vidal
LAS VEGAS, Nevada — God loves both Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Ray Bradley Jr.
It’s not fair to suggest that since one of them reads the Bible and attends the prayer meeting regularly, God will pick him to win over the other. God is fair. He does not play a loaded dice. If ever He decides to “interfere,” that is to ensure both protagonists will emerge from the square-jungle with their main faculties intact and safe from life-threatening injuries.
On June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, it will be a question of talent, preparations – mental and physical, and level of training which will determine the outcome of the 12-round WBO welterweight championship tussle between Pacquiao, 33, and Bradley, 28.
Age is another factor. Most prizefighters start to deteriorate at 32. When former world junior lightweight champion Rolando Navarette, Pacquiao’s provincemate in Dadiangas, Mindanao and fellow southpaw, wanted to regain his glory at 31, he was ambushed by Tae-Jin Moon (27-4, 15 KOs) in an embarrassing 6th round knockout loss before a horrified crowd at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines.on Oct. 13, 1989.
A younger Navarette, who captured the WBC 130-lb jewels on a shock 5th round disposal of Cornelius Boza-Edwards in Viareggio, Toscana, Italy eight years earlier, would have swallowed whole the Korean patsy, who repeated his mastery over Navarette in a rematch with a brutal 9th round knockout win at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on July 20, 1990.
Pacquiao, however, is an exemption. His coaching staff led by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach still considers Pacquiao (54-3, 38 KOs) “at the prime of his career” at 33. This is because “he kills himself in training,” observed one-time world title challenger Bernabe Concepcion, who used to train alongside Pacquiao at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.
“When Pacquiao trains, he will stop only if he is already tired. Sometimes he does not want to stop even if his trainers want him to stop,” Concepcion said in vernacular. “And he runs like a marathon champion and wakes up early in the morning ahead of all of us. He really has a tremendous discipline.”
Adriano “Rey” Golingan, Pacquiao’s wedding godfather and regular prayer meeting companion, said Pacquiao can still be dangerous even at 35. “His power comes from the Holy Spirit. In all his fights, God was there to guide him. God will never abandon Manny because he is basically a deeply religious person,” Golingan said in exclusive interview.
Golingan, who personally helped campaign for Pacquiao in the boxer’s failed bid for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2007 against Darlene Antonino-Custodio, said even the boxer’s ascension to public service as concurrent representative of Sarangani province, “is God’s will.”
“His being a world boxing champion and as congressman at the same time is God’s will. It has a purpose,” said Golingan, owner of the boxing gym in General Santos City where Pacquiao honed his skills as amateur boxer in the early 90’s under the tutelage of his first trainer Mario Sumalinog.
In between his duties and responsibilities as congressman, Pacquiao preached the Bible even before he started revving up for the defense of his WBO bauble against Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs). He has been consistent with his evangelical mission even after arriving in the United States where he leads a regular prayer among selected household members in his La Brea apartment.
Pacquiao, who admitted he has reconciled with Jinky, has repeatedly told the press he is now a “reformed” person and has completely turned his back from gambling, womanizing, among other vices after being “touched” by God in a dream. “I dreamt that I was crying as God admonished me for my sins,” Pacquiao confessed. “When I woke up, my pillow was wet.”
“Manny was a member of Team Davao del Sur at age 14,” confirmed Sumalinog in exclusive interview. “I’ve known him as a religious person. Maybe he has a mission from God.”
Pacquiao is favored to beat Bradley. A rematch will be held in November or December if Bradley wins on June 9, it was reported. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said Pacquiao is good for another fight after a duke out with Bradley win or lose.