MANILA, Philippines - Manny Pacquiao flies to Macau today, leaving behind a grieving, typhoon-ravaged nation as he faces a crucial, dangerous fight of his own.
The Filipino boxing icon, an elected congressman, takes a chartered plane to Macau and for nearly two hours he will have a lot of things at the back of his mind.
Pacquiao trained for close to 10 weeks in General Santos City, gearing up for a fight that could go either way in Asia’s gambling capital.
If Pacquiao wins, then he moves on as a boxer. But if he loses, he will have to consider retirement, and put all his time on politics.
Pacquiao, the “People’s Champion,” was almost helpless as he watched Typhoon Yolanda wreak havoc in the Visayas region more than a week ago.
He badly wanted to visit his countrymen in distress but was prevailed upon. Instead, he focused on and worked harder in training.
The typhoon death toll is nearing the 4,000 mark. Thousands and thousands were rendered homeless and desperate for help.
Images of his countrymen in suffering will be on Pacquiao’s mind in these days leading to the fight.
On Sunday, Pacquiao climbs the ring for the first time in 11 months and try to put a devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez totally behind.
Standing in front of him at the Cotai Arena at high noon of Sunday (Saturday night in the United States) is Mexican-American Brandon Rios.
While others say Rios is an easy fight and tailor-made for Pacquiao, others believe that it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
“They think I’m an easy fight because I’m coming off a loss,” said Rios, who lost to Mike Alvarado in a grueling 12-round battle last April.
Rios has the ability to take punches in order to land his own, and he said that’s what he plans to do against Pacquiao.
Rios, younger, taller and hungrier, said he will make sure Pacquiao remembers his knockout loss to Marquez, and vowed to send the Filipino into retirement.
Pacquiao has lost two in a row, including a very controversial loss to Tim Bradley in June last year. Now here comes Rios, a very dangerous opponent.
“It’s not going to be an easy fight. I’m picking Manny because he is Manny Pacquiao,” said Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard.
Don’t tell that to Rios.