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“Fight On!”

These words, in big, bold letters emblazoned on the vest strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune was wearing on the night Manny Pacquiao was crowned anew the World Boxing Organization welterweight champion, represents the significance of the Filipino icon’s title win over then defending belt-owner Jessie Vargas.

“Manny’s on a mission and that is to serve humanity by making people happy in the only way he  knows how, through boxing. He’s been like that from the time he won the world flyweight championship 15 years ago. Each time he fought, he would tell us, his happiness is in serving people,” the 56-year-old seven-time ‘Trainer of the Year’ recalled. “It has always been a mission he imposed on himself.”

“Of course, that’s besides helping his family extricate from the extreme poverty they were in. And after he had earned enough to secure his and his family’s future, his mind remained focused solely to making people, not only his countrymen, happy,” Roach added.

Roach admitted that in the long years he’s been training fighters, he hasn’t seen a boxer like the eight-division champion who finds satisfaction in trading punches with his fellow fighters, to give enjoyment to others.

“Manny’s a freak, I tell you, a real freak” Roach said. “the reason I love him. He’s a rarity.  He’s a different kind of person,” he said. “That’s why I’m very happy he won that fight coming from retirement.

“I knew he needed that so he can continue with his mission. Had he lost, that could have been devastating,” he said. “He had lost many fights in his career. He can lose as many in the future, but not this one, which he wanted very badly so he can pursue further what he wants to do for he rest of his life.”

“This, in reality, was the reason he came back to boxing following a self-imposed retirement. He thought he’ll be happy making people happy through government service like the senate,” Roach noted. “He felt sad and lonely staying in Manila all by himself and in the absence of his family.”

Realizing that he cannot make people happy if he himself is not happy, Pacquiao, the trainer surmised, took the chance of returning to the ring while doubling as a member of the Upper Chamber.

He did come back and a week after deciding on who to battle next, Pacquiao was seen on the road in in the mornings of days following, sparring and punching the mitts, the heavy bags and speed balls in the evenings right after attending senate sessions.

The sudden change in lifestyle proved too hard and demanding physically and mentally, but having experienced the same hectic schedule while still in the movie and television before, Pacquiao endured the sacrifices and survived through a well-chartered time management.

He even expressed willingness to undergo the same difficult experience two or three more times or for as long as his body would allow before finally retiring for good.

* Photo by Wendell Alinea/OSMP

By EDDIE G. ALINEA