By Alex M. Esmero (Filipino Boxing Contributor – Sydney)
After almost 6 years of often tortuous negotiations, the long awaited clash between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather billed as the Fight of the Century has come into fruition. Predicted as the highest grossing boxing bout in history that will shatter the US box office records between the 2 most skilled and accomplished boxers of this generation. The 8 division world champion Manny Pacquiao and undefeated 5 division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr are now in their respective training camps preparing for their May 2nd fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Floyd Mayweather who is now 38 years old, still undefeated and with a perfect professional record of 47 fights and 0 losses is confident Pacquiao is not going to break his MayVinci Code. On the other hand, Manny Pacquiao claims he has the right boxing skills and determination to give Mayweather his first loss which 47 other professional boxers failed to achieve.
Pacquiao’s strength in boxing rest on 3 things: physical, mental and spiritual. The spiritual aspect is something unique to Pacquiao as a boxer. Pacquiao sincerely believes that God is on his side and will help him win the fight as he repeatedly says “God will deliver Mayweather into my hands”.
Pacquiao who was born a Roman Catholic and now a born again Christian believes that God spoke to him in his dream. In that dream, he was in a beautiful place where he saw two angels and a bright light struck him and heard God’s voice telling him “My son why have you gone astray”. He cried and felt he was melting. He begged for forgiveness for his sins. He believes that God gave him a purpose which he needs to accomplish and that God has empowered him. From then on, he has changed his wild ways and reformed his life. Although he is now no longer wearing the Rosary which he inherited from his mother Dionisia, he has become a devout Christian.
His new found religion in Evangelical Protestantism has made him an Evangelist, or a “crusader” (a christian fighter in the medieval age). He believes that he needs to help people especially the poor and spread the word of God. He fulfills his evangelical mission by organizing and attending prayer meetings and quotes verses from the Bible in his talks and exemplifying them using his own personal experiences. In one of Pacquiao’s evagenlization videos that I’ve watched, he told a story of a Bird & a Cat where the Cat tried to lure the Bird to agreeing to eat one worm in exchange for one of its feathers. In the end, the bird realized it had lost all its feathers and could not fly and devoured by the Cat (which is the devil).
Pacman started joining Bible studies at the age of 10 and has been reading the Bible from time to time. His becoming a protestant has been helped by Filipino Pastor Jeric Soriano of New Life Christian Center in Alabang, Metro Manila. Pacman relates to people that Boxing is his job and evangelizing is his life’s work. Pacman glorifies God by doing charity work and shares his blessings to less fortunate people. Pacman also believes that God gave him a special boxing talent to win boxing matches. He fights for the Filipino people and brings glory to his God. In life, he has a mission and being a government official it is easier for him to help the poor people. With all these things said, I think I can say the Manny Pacquiao is a “Warrior of God”.
Pacman’s popularity has grown not only as an elite boxer but also in being known as a christian and a charitable person. More and more visitors flock the Wildcard Gym and in parks, wanting to see him train. The obvious visitors are the Hollywood celebrities. Recently, Pacman has been visited by Jesus, not the God, but the actor Jim Caviezel whom he had dinner with in the Thai restaurant near the gym. Caviezel who portrayed Jesus Christ in the classic movie “The Passion of the Christ” is also a Christian evangelist who gave a riveting speech about abortion and God’s love at the Rock Church in California, and whose inspirational video became viral in the internet.
Another known sportsman and christian figure is the Manila-born NFL star Tim Tebow and the NBA superstar Jeremy Lin. Tim Tebow’s parents were Baptist Christian volunteers sent to the Philippines and who Pacquiao claim as his christian brother back home. Jeremy Lin is an evangelical Christian like Pacquiao and a Bible study teacher at the Harvard University’s Asian-American Christian Fellowship who revealed that his trust in God helped him get through performance slumps on the basketball court.
In a recent article, Bob Arum made a revelation that most Americans are actually rooting for Pacquiao than for Floyd. He made a comparison between the 2 boxers as it is slowly developing into a culture clash. He said “Floyd Mayweather is outstanding at marketing himself and in his own words represents ostentatious materialism. He talks about how much money he makes and the cars he drives. While Manny Pacquiao on the other hand is dedicated to his Christian beliefs and all he has accomplished is based on the will of God. He feels a tremendous obligation to give back and engage in charitable endeavors. Now people are picking up on the contrasts between these two young men”.
Pacquiao has a mission to evangelize people and comes out in his own words “I want to let people know that there is a God who can raise people from nothing into something”. He wants to share the word of God to everyone and he has a plan of sharing it also to Floyd Mayweather after the fight. He wants to make him understand that fame, money and material possessions are nothing without God in our life.
Manila is like the Las Vegas of boxing in Asia and the Philippines is the heart of Christianity in Asia. The Filipinos in general are huge fans of boxing and the Philippines is a predominantly Christian country. I myself have been a big fan of boxing (and a Catholic Christian) and as I recall it started since the time of Muhammad Ali. I have watched Ali’s early fights on TV like those with Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena. From there, I became a boxing enthusiast and have watched almost all of his subsequent fights.
I remember my deceased father whom I thought was a more diehard fan of boxing. He was featured in a headline photo of an article dated March 8, 1971 in the Manila based newspaper called Pilipino EXPRESS for the “Thrilla in Manila” event. The photo showed my Dad with 4 other patrons queueing very early in the ticket booth of the Araneta Coliseum (the venue of that fight) . He was I remembered the earliest patron.
In the 1990s, I was fond of watching a Boxing TV show in Manila called “Blow by Blow”. In 1998, this is where I first saw Manny Pacquiao fighting the Thai Champion Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand to win the WBC Flyweight Championship and attaining his first world title. According to Wikipedia, this bout began the Third Golden Age of Philippine Boxing.
I have a strong affinity to Boxing and it seems to run in the blood of our clan. I have 4 relatives who are professional boxers in the Philippines. Their names are Lord Esmero (light flyweight), Celso Esmero (lightweight), Romeo Esmero (light flyweight), and Pedro Adigue (super lightweight) who has become a world champion. Adigue frequently come to our store in Quiapo Manila to visit my father who has helped him in different ways. Their names and boxing records can be found on BoxRec.
Filipino boxers in general find strength before a boxing match by making the sign of the cross and in making a short prayer. This has been manifested by Manny Pacquiao. He prays for divine intervention to win the fight and glorifies God before and after the bout.
Recently, I found a boxing article entertaining. It is entitled “Is Manny Pacquiao Man Enough to Face the God of Boxing Floyd Mayweather?” which was posted in the internet. They seem to put Floyd Mayweather in a pedestal and looking up to him as a God in Boxing due to his perfect record. But Floyd is not really unbeatable.
In reality, Floyd already suffered defeats in his amateur days. He lost to Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games which he avoids mentioning in public. In contrast however, I think another title for a boxing article that will catch attention and probably worth writing would be “Is Floyd Mayweather man enough to face the Man of God?”. What do you think?
The Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight is not only a battle in the ring but also a battle outside the ring. As Freddie Roach wants to put it, is “a battle between Good and Evil”, Pacquiao being the good boy and Mayweather the bad. On May 2nd, we will again see Pacquiao with his all smiling face waving at the crowd as he walks towards the ring which he claims is his natural reaction because boxing is his passion and is just excited to fight. Again, Pacquiao will have a chance to glorify his God in public if he wins as what he has done in the past (which Evander Holyfield has also done after beating Mike Tyson). Let us all look forward to a very exciting fight on May 2nd between the 2 best Pound-for-Pound boxers in the world. May the best man win.
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