Manny in Manila

Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao will turn 39 this Dec. 17. That’s very, very old for an elite boxer. Having fought 68 times in his pro career, he has been a recipient of thousands of uppercuts, body-blows, jabs, head-butts. Given his age and the accumulated physical barrage that he’s absorbed, Pacman is down to his last one or two fights. Why spend these final moments in Brisbane or Las Vegas?

Manny’s request for his next fight to be on Philippine soil is fantastic. This is no longer about money. It’s not about accummulating more belts (he’s the only fighter to win 11 world titles in eight different weight divisions). It’s about giving back to the Philippines.

Of the three times that I have watched Pacquiao fight in person, twice was in Manila. The first was in The Fort in Dec. 2004. Manny was only 25 years old then and coming off upset wins over Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez. In that bout, I recall Manny unleashing a barrage of punches that had Fahsan 3K Battery of Thailand flying on the Taguig open air.

In 2006, Pacquiao entered the Araneta Coliseum and faced Oscar Larios of Mexico. It wasn’t an impressive win but the crowd was still noisy and proud. MP won by unanimous decision.

That was Manny’s last fight on home soil… 11 years and two months ago. Since that Quezon City bout, he has traveled to fight in the Alamodome and the Cowboys Stadium in Texas, in Nevada, in Macau twice, and the latest one last July, at the Suncorp Stadium. His last 20 fights have been conducted on foreign soil. It’s about time Manny comes home.

“It will not push through there in Australia,” said Pacquiao. “But we are bringing the fight here in the Philippines.”

Manny is adept at negotiations. He’s been at this game for decades and knows that he has the upperhand. He’s the crowd-drawer. He dictates. The complication, of course, admitted Bob Arum, is in the contract. Prior to the Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight, their agreement called for a rematch clause that would be held in Australia.

Manny doesn’t care. He wants to reverse that stipulation and bring the 29-year-old Brisbane native to Manila. Will it work? I’m sure. If it doesn’t, Pacman has other options.

“This will be good for our country’s tourism,” he said.

Absolutely. While we have been bringing to our shores world-class basketball action (LeBron James was here), our most famous Pinoy has not been seen in real-life action in 11 years.

“We have lots of friends who are supporting us including our tourism department,” he added. “The president is giving his all-out support.”

I’m sure Pacquiao is looking forward to that moment when Pres. Rodrigo Duterte will be seated in the front row to witness him fight and for him to climb the ring to hand him the championship belt in front of 55,000 boisterous fans in the Philippine Arena.

And while the reported $1 million that the City of Brisbane shelled out to finance the “Battle of Brisbane” is too much for the Phil. government to shoulder, we should still sponsor a sizable figure. As for Jeff Horn, if the Aussie’s unwilling to come, why not invite Conor McGregor?

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