It’s no longer a surprise to many that after a gruelling, day-long grind on the road and inside a boxing gym, you still see Manny Pacquiao in a basketball gym playing the game second to his heart.
For Filipino international ring icon, you see, basketball is his way of staying fit, when not fighting and during lull in his training schedule.
The sport, which, incidentally, is the closest to his countrymen’s heart, is, in fact, his other passion, next only to his profession.
That was how the only man on earth to capture 11 world championships in eight weight divisions explained his penchant for the sport which he plays almost daily.
Except, of course, during the crucial stages of his preparation for a fight.
“Sabihin na nating basketball ang second love ko, next only to boxing,” the erstwhile world belt-owner of the flyweight, super-bantamweight, super-featherweight, lightweight, junior-welterweight, welterweight and junior-middleweight divisions has often told this writer whenever conversations turned on the subject.
“Well, you, probably, have noticed it, basketball is the sport I used for my cross-training. Besides keeping me in shape, it gives me happiness whenever I play the game,” he explained.
“Before we left Manila last week on our way here, sabi ninyo ang ganda ng katawan ko at mukhang kondisyong-kondisyon ako inspite of my long layoff from boxing,” the ‘Fighter of the Decade’’ honoree of the Boxing Writers Association of America for 2000-2010 said.
“You’re right. When we opened camp almost a month ago, it looked I was already in fighting form. That’s because of basketball,” he narrated. “Days after my last, which lost, basketball ang ginamit ko para makalimot at maka-recover.”
“If given a chance depending on my schedule in he senate, I play the game for relaxation and at the same time remain fit,” he disclosed. “To a large extent, I really owe my quick and speedy recovery, for whatever, to basketball, without which, baka the injuries I suffered from my prior fights eh nararamdaman ko pa till now.”
“Marami kasi nagagawa ang paglalaro ng basketball. For one, it strengthens my legs and my arms” Pacquiao asserted. “Basketball, you see, helps me recover my speed in both my hands and feet, besides helping me in making quick decisions, which I need in boxing.
“Sa basketball, nade-develop ko ang stamina, footwork, quickness, decision-making, etc,” Pacquiao stressed.
His passion for basketball doesn’t diminish though his love for boxing, Pacquiao, who also owns the world lineal titles in flyweight, featherweight, super-featherweight and junior-welterweight, reaffirmed.
“Boxing, of course, is my first love, being the sport that extricated me and my entire family from poverty to what I am now. Boxing is my life,” he stressed. “Basketball, on the other hand, is my happiness. The sport gives me the happiness in life. Masayang-masaya ako kapag naglalaro ako,” To demonstrate his passion for the game, the father of five to wife, Sarangani Vice Gov. Jinkee, has also been the main man in organizing basketball tournaments. He was also responsible for the Columbian Motors acquiring a franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Pacquiao is so passionate in basketball that oftentimes, he would defy his trainers’ plea for him to reduce his time playing the game for fear of his ward getting injured.
“I cannot really help playing the sport. Pero maingat naman ako. Ayoko ring ma-injure ako ng grabe. The kind that could abruptly end my career. Lalo na ngayong ilang laban na lang at magre-retire na ako,” the former pound-for-pound best in the world said. (Photos by Wendell Alinea/MP Promotions)
By EDDIE G. ALINEA