Boxer fights for homelandMANILA - For the Philippines, boxer Manny Pacquiao is more than a sports champion.
His fans, the media and politicians see him as nothing less than a national hero whose feats can lift the nation.
“The hopes of an entire country are riding on me. That is why I cannot let myself fall,” Pacquiao says in one television advertisement.
It is a heavy message for a shampoo commercial, but it is one that many Filipinos have taken to heart as they cheer Pacquiao on in his improbable career that has seen him rise from deep poverty to six-time world champion.
“There is a great responsibility on his shoulders because his victories are the victories of all of us and his loss would be the loss for all of us,”
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said when he awarded Pacquiao an “outstanding achievement” medal recently for his feats in the ring. He lauded the 31-year-old for inspiring the 92 million people of this impoverished Southeast Asian nation. Teodoro also referred to much-publicized security reports that rebel attacks and crime went down during Pacquiao’s fights as guerrillas and criminals wanted to follow his fate on radio or television.
Both Pacquiao and the nation’s faith will again be put to the test on Nov. 14 when he faces hard-hitting World Boxing Organization champ Miguel Cotto in a welterweight title fight in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao has a record of 49 victories with only three defeats. He has won 27 times by knockout to now be widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Although the Philippines has produced many world-class boxing champs - such as Flash Elorde and Gerry Penalosa - the adoration bestowed on Pacquiao is unprecedented.
“People just swarm [Pacquiao] to get a touch or a look,” his American trainer, Freddie Roach, told reporters recently. AFP