Afterword on Manny Pacquiao

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

The world is heaping praise and gratitude upon Manny Pacquiao as he formally announced his retirement from boxing. We are thankful for the decades of inspiration and joy that he brought the nation. We are all now telling our own stories of encounters with his greatness as a boxer, and his humility as a human being.

This writer first met the sitting senator as a 17-year-old in tattered clothing and slippers outside a Greenhills restaurant. He was introduced to me by the genial Polding Correa, his first boxing manager.

“This young man is going to be a great boxer,” Correa told me. “I told him not to think about money until he’s a world champion. I’ll take care of him until then.”

You had a sense that there was something to this scrawny youngster. But who could tell how far he would go? Pacquiao later resurfaced in public consciousness when he did, indeed become a world champion. He was raw, fierce, fearless, but technically left much to be desired. He took as much as he gave. And with Correa no longer in his camp, people around him weren’t providing the proper guidance. It was only when the bottle-blonde youngster came to Freddie Roach that he evolved into a two-fisted terror, dispatching the feared Lehlo Ledwaba in a spectacular US debut. He was so new, so unfamiliar, the American announcers didn’t know how to pronounce his name.

Manny then made his big splash in 2006. The economy had crashed, and Filipinos, desperate and suffering, needed a hero. In his second battle with Erik Morales, Pacquiao got his revenge, and propelled himself into his countrymen’s imagination. (The day after, we launched our program Hardball, which ran for 13 years.) He went on a six-and-a-half-year tear, going from bigger to bigger stage. He stopped traffic and crime, both of which always seemed unsolvable. He surpassed the legendary Flash Elorde, both in accomplishment and sheer volume of people that he helped. He lived up to his hero status, and then some. (Coming full circle, his last fight also served as the main subject for the maiden episode of our newest project, the daily online boxing show “Round By Round.”) Those of us who’ve had the privilege of watching him perform live are indeed fortunate.

What makes this writer happiest is that Manny Pacquiao is escaping this most dangerous profession with his health and faculties intact. He is aiming for a higher platform of service. We thank him and pray for his continued safety and success.

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