Better late than never.
November 12, 2011, a Saturday at 10:40 in th evening. Just got off from work. Eager to see Manny exchange blows with Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time. Just before Michael Buffer blows his trademark, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!”, everyone in the house was already bracing themselves for a knock-out victory from the Filipino ring icon. My idol. Everyone’s expectation was also mine.In fact, it was every Filipino’s expectation.
MANNY and JMM In A Flash
I was in Salong, Kabankalan during their first brawl. Paler and sleeker Manny, humility written all over his face. JMM looked more like the “aggressor”. Firmer and steadier than Manny. Between him and Manny, he was more famous. When the bell rang, both exchanged blows. With a minute remaining, I saw three knockdowns. If memory serves me right, those knockdowns were via two left blows and a right. Yes, JMM fell three times in the first round, something that JMM’s compatriots didn’t expect. The unexpected was a nightmare for the Mexicans. Driven by eagerness and buoyed by confidence, Manny wanted to finish off JMM. The power of his left fist was coupled with speed. Marquez was, fortunately, saved by the bell though during that round. As the fight continued, JMM recovered. Instantly learning from the three knockdowns, he became cautious in his defense and judicious in his offense. To my mind, Marquez was clinical in his counter-punches.
It was an epic one. A classic. Both did not give up. Both in their best forms even when they were both bleeding. One trying to outbox the other. The decision — a draw. Apparently, Marquez outclassed Manny in the later rounds with one judge highly giving a rather controversial score. Three years after that came the fight that was a seeming copycat of the first brawl. Three knockdowns. The bleeding. Fighting like lions wanting to rule one jungle. An epic fight one more time. The decision: Manny won.
The trilogy ended on Saturday, “un-epically”. At first I thought, “The uncanny Manny was not there. Suddenly, sports pundits shuddered why Manny fought in such a “passion-less” way. Criticisms against Manny reverberated all over, painting Manny as the villain. A failure. In short he was un-Manny. The exact opposite of what everyone expected him to be that Saturday evening.
But before Manny gets pulverized let me share my two cents’ worth.
A GLIMPSE OUTSIDE JMM VS MANNY FIGHTS
Not counting the trilogy between Manny and JMM, Manny won all of his fights convincingly. He destroyed all his opponents. All his opponents were beaten black and blue. Filipinos rejoiced. He fought in heavier and higher weight divisions but still his opponents were crushed. Faces bled, lips cut, eyes closed all because of Manny’s power punches and lightning speed. So uncanny was Manny that he was dubbed him as the best boxer of all time. A champion of eight weight divisions.
Juan Antonio Barrera’s baby face was crushed, Eric Morales’ formidable stance, bended. Miguel Cotto’s iron look melted and Margarito’s tower power dwarfed.
This caused the spoiler. Manny himself set a standard so high, the Filipino nation shakes every time he unorthodoxly dances inside the ring. It led Filipinos to expect that when Manny fights, the opponent always ends up lying flat on the canvass as if de-boned or hacked on the face by a bolo. Yes, Manny spoiled us. As what a Filipino friend told me earlier today, “Sobra tayong na-spoil sa mga laban ni Manny eh”.To me, those words were correct. We always had this high expectation from our “idol”. But, who hasn’t, not when a Filipino sports hero named Manny Pacquiao is put in the pedestal? It is what it is.
GIVE CAESAER, WHAT BELONGS TO CAESAR
My eyes do not lie, however. Of all Manny’s opponents, Marquez is the most methodical and clinical. The best counter-puncher, if I may add, Manny has ever fought. He constantly gave Manny a dose of his own medicine. Every time Manny throws a punch, JMM makes sure he returns fire with a punch or two. This is what made the first two fights an epic series. Juan is steady, eager but so judicious and walled himself against the power punches of Manny. He did not lose his composure. He too, has his power punches. And, so i must give it to Marquez.
Whatever one says about the Pacquiao and Marquez’ last encounter, I am more than resolute in believing that, in the weight division where he currently reigns, nobody can beat Manny convincingly inside the ring. Not even Floyd Mayweather Jr. He might not have beaten Marquez convincingly but no one can destroy him as well, the way he destroyed his other opponents. No boxer has been born as yet who can knock Manny down.
THE PUNCHES’ POLITICAL POWER
When the Pope talks, everybody listens. When Manny punches, everybody watches. That is the power Manny brings to the Filipinos. The ideologues, technocrats, oligarchs, trapos, men and women in robes, paupers and scavengers, juveniles and the outcasts stop whatever it is that they are doing every time Manny is in the ring. No crimes, at least, in the next three hours of those Sundays when the hero dances in the ring. He unites the nation, foes and enemies alike. He puts joy and hope in the hearts and minds of the sick. Relief from hunger for the impoverished. He simply puts a smile on every Filipino’s face when he punches. And pride is in the heart whenever he downs an opponent.That is how powerful and influential Manny Pacquiao is.
He is one of the few remaining Filipinos that can bring the nation honor and respect from most, if not all people of this world sans the Mexicans. He is a treasure and pride. Established.
It doesn’t need a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown either.
He didn’t say it all. He just did it. Not one Filipino will doubt how Manny gives out his heart when he fights.