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Opinion

One presidential showdown is harder than 12 boxing championships

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The problem with an eight-time world boxing champion entering the treacherous terrain of Philippine politics is really the risk of assuming that winning a political showdown is easier than knocking out a reigning welterweight title holder. Manny Pacquiao might have been the historic holder of eight boxing championship belts. But in politics, he is just a novice. If he thinks that conquering tried and tested veterans like Digong Duterte in 2022, is easier than knocking out Errol Spence Jr. on August 21, he might yet taste the bitterest surprise of his life. His aspiration might be noble, but his moves are naive.

Pacquiao won the WBC flyweight championship in 1998 when he knocked out Chatchai Sasakul. In 2001, Pacquiao won the IBF super bantamweight championship. He was able to defend that championship four times in a row. He also won The Ring featherweight championship defeating Marco Antonio Barrera by TKO in 2003. He defended that title twice. In 2008, he won over Juan Manuel Marquez, thereby getting two titles: WBC's super featherweight and The Ring super featherweight, although it was via split decision. Also in 2008, Pacquiao won the WBC lightweight title over David Diaz. Pacquiao was very successful in boxing. The danger now is for his team to think that the field of politics is as easy as boxing.

In 2009, Pacquiao also won The Ring light welterweight championship by knocking out Ricky Hatton, to the great dismay of the boxing enthusiasts. This was followed also in 2009 when Pacquiao won the WBO welterweight title by beating Miguel Cotto. He defended that title three times. In 2010, Pacquiao also won the WBC lightweight championship by unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito. In 2014, Pacquiao won by unanimous decision over Timothy Bradley, thereby winning the WBO welterweight world championship. In 2016, he won by unanimous decision over Jessie Vargas, thereby regaining the WBO welterweight world title. In 2019, he won by split decision over Keith Thurman, winning the WBA super welterweight title. Pacquiao is the only world boxing champion with 12 major titles in eight different divisions. Not even Muhammad Ali and other boxing giants ever achieved that feat.

Pacquiao, now 42, has had 71 boxing fights. He won 62 of them, 39 by knockout, and lost seven, with two draws. On August 21, he will fight Errol Spence, 31. This younger guy had figured in 27 fights and won all of them, with 21 knockouts. Thus, Pacquiao is facing a formidable fighter, a younger, taller and bigger one. But despite all these disadvantages, Pacquiao is the favorite. But I’m quite concerned because his mind isn’t focused on the fight. He keeps on being affected by the verbal attacks from Malacañang and the Cusi wing of PDP-Laban. Pacquiao is distracted and his mind isn’t concentrated on the August 21 showdown. This predicament may cause his downfall both in boxing and is politics. That would be a case of grasp all, lose all. And that would be very sad for all of us.

The mistake of Pacquiao, or the lousy advice of his political advisers, was for him to pick a fight with the president at a crucial time of his pre-boxing preparations. He should not be fighting two battlefronts at the same time. He should have waited until September when he should have already knocked out Spence and picked up some millions of dollars in Las Vegas. He could have postponed his attacks against the administration after the fight. To me, that was a crucial faux pas which could cost him both the boxing championship and the presidency in 2022. I really wonder if Pacquiao has a competent political handler. And if he has, then I dare say that he should fire him and look for a better one.

Pacquiao may be the best boxer in all history in the whole world. But in politics, he is just like Onyok Velasco challenging Muhammad Ali. He should wake up to the harsh reality of dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, and elimination of the unfit. If he doesn’t get a very shrewd, savvy, and sagacious handler, then he will be eaten alive by the ferocious predators and scheming strategists and tacticians in the opposite camp. Pacquiao should not only be pure as a dove. He should also be wise as a serpent and deadly as a scorpion because he is entering the caves of wolves, cobras, and hyenas.

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