LAS VEGAS – Former two-time world boxing champion Gerry Peñalosa couldn’t be sure if he would advise his good friend Manny Pacquiao to retire after losing to Juan Manuel Marquez by knockout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here Saturday night.
“It’s up to Manny,” said Peñalosa in Pacquiao’s glum dressing room. “It’s his decision. Only he knows if he’s still hungry to fight. He can come back if he wants. Other fighters have won championships coming back from a knockout loss. So he can do it, too.”
Peñalosa retired at the age of 39 two years ago. He was 36 when in a startling upset, the southpaw from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, knocked out Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez with a single body shot to capture the WBO bantamweight crown in Sacramento in 2007. Gonzalez recovered from the loss to capture the IBO featherweight title three years later and the WBC version the next year. The difference is Gonzalez was 26 when he lost to Peñalosa and Pacquiao is now a week shy of turning 34.
“I think Manny should be more focused in boxing if he wants to continue,” said Peñalosa. “Right now, he’s too involved in religion which is good. But I’m not sure if it’s taking too much attention from his boxing.”
On the morning of his fight, Pacquiao chose to attend a Bible service with pastor Rice Brooks of Every Nation Churches in his 60th floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and failed to show up for Fr Marlon Beof’s blessing in a Catholic Holy Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, a holiday of obligation. Fr. Beof announced before the Mass that Pacquiao would receive his blessing with the other Filipino fighters in the card after Holy Communion at the South Pacific conference hall at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Fr. Beof said he purposely scheduled the Holy Mass at 8 a.m. so Pacquiao could come for the blessing and still attend the Bible service at 9 a.m. The Mass started at 8:20 a.m. and Pacquiao never showed up. Election lawyer Romy Macalintal delivered the first reading and Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia, the second. Peñalosa said it was sad that Pacquiao lost on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On the way to the ring for the Marquez fight, Pacquiao was accompanied by Fr. Beof and Leonardia. Macalintal, who advises Pacquiao on political affairs, said he was disappointed that the fighter failed to show up for the blessing as promised.
“The sign of the cross was always part of Manny’s fight since he started his boxing career for so many years,” said Macalintal. “Making the sign of the cross was part of his timing and style, especially when he felt he was in trouble. Without it, he was a confused man in the ring as if wanting to make the sign of the cross but could not because of his new religion. Thus, his timing was off-tangent and he was an easy target for Marquez who hung on to his rosary as a devoted Catholic which was what Pacquiao was before the fourth Marquez fight. In Round 6, I was praying ‘Where are you, Mama Mary?’ then a few seconds before the round ended, that knockout punch from Marquez answered my question.”
Macalintal said in the first reading, the Lord reached out to Adam and Eve and asked ‘Where are you?’ “It was the first case of due process because God asked Adam and Eve to explain why they ate the apple and succumbed to temptation,” said Macalintal, a lector of the Last Supper of Our Lord parish in Las Piñas for 28 years.
Fr. Beof said it was painful to see Pacquiao lose to Marquez. Since Fr. Beof was requested by Pacquiao to celebrate Holy Mass on the morning of every fight since 2003, the ring icon has attended 17 straight without a single absence – until last Saturday.
There is talk that Pacquiao plans to establish his own ministry called “Word For All.” As a born-again Christian, Pacquiao no longer believes in saying the rosary or making the sign of the cross. Previously, Pacquiao used to observe a nine-day rosary novena before a fight and wore a rosary around his neck entering and leaving the ring.