By EDDIE G. ALINEA
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Once upon a time, there was this 16-year-old obscure boxer who debuted as a pro in a town in far away Mindoro that lies between the regions of Luzon and the Visayas.
The boy, named Manny Pacquiao, only stood at 4’ 11 and weighed 98 pounds, seven pounds short of the minimum limit of 105 pounds for the mini-flyweight division.
Last Tuesday, during the routine meeting with the press following the Grand Arrival ceremony that was part of promotional strategy to attract boxing fans’ interest for his coming fight with World Boxing Organization welterweight crown owner Jessie Vargas, the soon-to-be 38-year-old Pacquiao, the only man in the history of sweet science to win championships in eight weight divisions, admitted that he had to put coins and other heavy objects in his pockets to meet the required weight.
To the delight, of course, of newsmen gathered around him in a table, including his promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, Hall of Fame Trainer Freddie Roach, publicist Fred Sternberg and business consultant Michael Koncz.
Pacquiao’s revelation did not come as a surprise to a handful of Filipino media men present, but to those not privy to his story were amazed by the ring exploits of the man in the next 21 years of his pro life that netted for him no less than 22 international awards and recognition.
These include, among others, championships in World Boxing Council flyweight, International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight, RING featherweight, WBC super-featherweight, WBC lightweight, International Boxing Organization/RING junior-welterweight, World Boxing Organization welterweight and WBC super-welterweight.
To emerge he best in those eight divisions, Pacquiao beat such ring legends as Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera, David Diaz, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, all by stoppage, and Juan Manuel Marquez and Antonio Margarito by decisions.
These title victories, likewise, earned for him the accolade ‘Fighter of he Decade’ from the years 2000-2009 by the Boxing Writers Association of America, , ‘Fighter of he Year (2006, 2008 and 2009), also by the BWAA, and Pound-for-Pound King.
His accomplishments have established the Filipino southpaw a sure future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He, too, is believed to have transcended the sport of sweet science.
The Pacman, as he is also fondly called,is married to Maria Geraldine “Jinkee” Jamora in a union that has produced five children – Jimuel, Michael, Princess, Queenie and Israel.
Pacquiao became the only Filipino ahlete to have appeared on a postage stamp besides being the first non-Olympic participant to carry the national colors during the opening ceremonies of he 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
He was once featured on the cover of the prestigious Time Magazine and acknowledged as one of the richest athlete in she company of golfer Tiger Woods, arch-rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. and baseball player Derek Jeter.
The highest honor accorded him by his countrymen was his election as congressman representing the Province of Sarangani (two terms) and a seat in the Philippine Senate in the just concluded national elections .
If he wins against Vargas, which he is a heavy favorite, in his comeback fight on November 5 (November 6 in Manila), he, too, stands to become the first sitting senator to become world boxing champion.