Category Archives: Manny Pacquiao

Miami, Manny, Maria and the Mallorcan

John Gurzinski/AFP/GettyImages

It’s not just Manny Pacquiao who’s fighting today. There’s Boston vs. Miami in the do-or-die Game 7. And, if that’s not enough, last night we had Maria Sharapova winning (M. Jerome Limpag hopes!) and, later this evening, an epic French Open ending between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. All within 24 hours.

Mallorcan? That’s Nadal. He’s from the resort island of Spain called Mallorca. Why is the battle against Djokovic of legendary proportions? Because if Nadal wins, it will be his 7th Parisian title—a record. But, if he loses, it will be Djokovic who will record a masterpiece: He’d have won his 4th straight Grand Slam crown—all against the same fallen enemy, Nadal.

I pick Spain over Serbia. Though Nadal lost to Djokovic in their last three Grand Slam finals meetings, it’s the Mallorcan who has looked unbeatable the past two weeks. He hasn’t lost a set. He’s 51 of 52 matches (career) in Roland Garros. He’s also beaten Djokovic in their last two encounters. Tonight, watch Nadal-Djokovic at 9 P.M.

MARIA. Is there a female athlete who’s prettier? Taller? With more slender legs and flowing blonde hair? Than Ms. Maria? None. That’s why the most celebrated sportswoman is the 6-foot-2 former Russian native who now calls Florida home.

At the French Open, with the early departures of Serena, Schiavone, Azarenka, Venus & Co., it’s been an easy path for Maria. And, with Stosur losing to the unknown Sara Errani, it should be an easy, two-set victory for MS.

MIAMI. Nobody wants that NBA ring more than LeBron Raymone James. Drafted as the No.1 pick in 2003, he’s waited every month of June for NBA Commissioner David Stern to hand him that most precious jewelry. But each year, LBJ has been relegated to Groomsman (“always the contender, but never the Groom”).

Will June 2012 finally be the moment? It depends today. Because if the Heat sizzle and sauté the green peas called Boston, and with Chris Bosh returning fully by the NBA Final, then, yes, LeBron will pocket that NBA Championship.

Statistics? Miami is 7-2 at home in these playoffs. Boston is 3-6. This is problematic for Paul Pierce & Co. Plus, the return of Bosh appears to have troubled Kevin Garnett. In Game 6, he shot a dismal 12 points and rebounded only five times. Bad numbers.

Destiny is etched in the fingertips of LeBron. He will shine today and meet Oklahoma beginning June 12.

MANNY. A big fan of the Celtics, Manny will be watching (from inside the locker room) his team lose to Miami. But this won’t affect Manny.

Today in Las Vegas, Manny is aiming for his career win No. 60. He’s drawn twice and lost thrice. But the most important statistic? This one: Not since March 19, 2005 has Manny lost a fight. That’s seven years ago. Since that Erik Morales UD loss, Manny has won 15. Today, he’s gunning for Consecutive Win No. 16. In this era when, after each strong opponent, you fight another who’s bigger, faster, better—this 15-fight streak is unprecedented.

Two specific numbers interest me. One, that Manny is heavier than the other guy. This isn’t normal. When was the last time it happened? At 147 lbs., this is Manny at his heaviest. Also, the height. Used to seeing the Margaritos and De La Hoyas who’d stare down at our Pinoy superhero, this time, it’s Manny who’s taller than Bradley.

Money? Wow, what a disparity. Anybody who’s not ultra-famous who fights Manny gets $5 million. While this is huge, it’s minuscule compared to the $26 million guaranteed (plus PPV extras) for Manny. Boxing is big business. (By comparison, Nadal has earned $48M—in his entire career.) Manny earns more than 99 percent of the world’s top athletes—in just 36 minutes, max.

Will this be Manny’s last fight? We never know. With Manny now a Bible-loving and God-fearing Christian, who knows if he’ll forever say goodbye to boxing. While unlikely, we never know. That’s why we should treasure these few noontime hours. We have never—and will never again—see the likes of Pacman.

Manny’s 3 Ps: “Pahaway, Practice, Pangadji”

Wakee Salud took my phone call yesterday. Like we do in almost every Manny Pacquiao fight, I call him two weeks prior to fight night.

Wakee is Manny’s closest buddy. Their friendship began in 2005 after Manny’s loss to Erik Morales. Then, Wakee invited him to Lapu-Lapu City for a promotion. When Manny trained in Cebu for Marco Antonio Barrera back in 2007, where was his second home? The Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym in Labangon.

Since 2005, Wakee has been Manny’s good luck charm, with a 15-fight winning streak. “Every fight since we became close, I’ve watched in person,” he said.

“I’m leaving for Las Vegas on June 6,” said Wakee.

Anybody else from Cebu who’s going? I asked. “Tommy, Margot and, I think, Del Mar,” he said.

I queried Wakee about Timothy Ray Bradley, Jr. The 28-year-old Californian is undefeated in 28 fights. The “Desert Storm,” as he’s nicknamed, stands 5-foot-6 and is the current WBO Light Welterweight champ.

“No chance for Bradley,” he said. “Easy fight for Manny.”

Prediction? “Knockout gyud!” he added. Not that Bradley is a patsy. It’s just that, according to Wakee, his best friend is at a completely different level today.

“Si Manny, wala na gyud mag….. kuwan-kuwan,” said Wakee, stressing on the last word whose meaning is loaded with sinister connotations. Translated in English: He’s no longer fooling around. He’s all boxing business.

Wakee considers this 2012 as Manny’s best training ever. But, I asked, doesn’t he and MP’s team always say the same thing? Doesn’t Freddie Roach always brag—to mentally scare the enemy—that Manny’s condition is the best he’s ever seen? Doesn’t this happen every pre-fight?

No, says Wakee.     This time, it’s real. He saw Manny in Baguio a few weeks ago like he’s seen him in the “City of Pines” in every previous training session. Now, it’s different.

In Manny’s last two fights, Wakee admits that MP was unimpressive. Though he handily defeated Shane Mosley, the verdict on his showing was poor. Unlike the Manny of old who would destroy and annihilate, he was hesitant and unsure. He had cramps. The same with their Trilogy versus Juan Manuel Marquez. We thought Manny lost. Lahi gyud ang karaan na Manny, we all agreed.

“I watched Manny train in Baguio in those two previous fights and kibawo na ko daan (I already knew),” said Wakee. “Manny wasn’t at his best. He’d stay up very late at night. He’d skip his runs and footwork exercises. He kept on going back to Manila. That’s why I wasn’t surprised with Manny’s subpar performance in those last two fights.”

Now? “The best gyud karon ang condition ni Manny,” he said.

Wakee enumerated three reasons. The 3 P’s I call them: Pahaway. Practice. Pangadji.

Rest. Relentless Training. Prayer.

“Manny is very well rested in his training now,” said Wakee, who last saw MP at the Manila airport prior to his departure for the Wild Card Gym. “Unlike before when he’d stay up late and had too many distractions. Also, sakto gyud sa practice and training.”

Finally, the last and most essential P: prayer. “Dako gyud na usab kay (There are a lot of changes with) Manny. He keeps on reading the Bible. Everyday, he would have Bible studies. He would not be comfortable if a day passes that he doesn’t read the Bible.”

When I asked Wakee if his buddy invited him to join their Bible-reading sessions, he let out a long and hearty laugh. “Manny keeps on convincing me,” said Wakee. “Jinkee even sent me a Bible. And even Jinkee’s sisters have all become regular Bible readers.”

I told Wakee that I believe this will be Manny’s last fight. “No, no. Dili pa (not yet),” he said. “If he won’t fight Mayweather next, then I think Manny will have three more fights.”

Floyd? “Dayon gyud na (It will push through). Manny has already agreed to all his demands. Drug testing. And many others. The only problem is the money, the sharing. For me, the best solution is 40-40. They’re guaranteed 40 percent each with the winner receiving the balance. Winner gets 60 percent; loser, 40 percent. Fair, di ba?”

I agree. But first… next Sunday.

Knocking out the old, Pac’s a new Man

Happy Easter! One of our best decisions during the Holy Week was to attend the Triduum Retreat at the Sacred Heart Parish—facilitated by the Xavier School president, Fr. Johnny C. Go, SJ, one of the most articulate, funny and inspiring of speakers. He provoked us. He allowed us to reexamine our past, sinful life. He spoke about forgiveness.

This Holy Week, I also got to read two articles perfectly-timed with Lent.

“Pacquiao steps aside for the true Champ” was written by ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo. The former tennis ace (she was No.1 in the ‘80s) published it on Good Friday, April 6.

“A new Manny Pacquiao” is the second piece and it was penned (last March 31) by Ronnie Nathanielsz of Manila Standard.

These articles talked about Pacman giving a life-sharing during the ABS-CBN Christian Fellowship last week, on March 29.

Umiinom, sugal, bar, babae…” Pacquiao was quoted by Dyan. As you and I know, as good as Manny was inside the boxing ring, he was bad outside. “Dati dasal ako ng dasal,” Manny admitted. “Simba ako every Sunday pero Monday to Saturday lahat ng kalokohan ginagawa ko. Hindi natin maloloko ang Panginoon.”

Now, four months since opening the Bible, he’s sold his fighting cocks and deleted the mobile numbers of his multiple girlfriends; instead, he’s transformed those vices into prayer.

“Manny attributes his spiritual awakening and transformation after truly discovering the author and subject of the Bible, Jesus Christ,” said Dyan. “He said he repented from his sin, rededicated his life to Jesus and went on a quest to learn as much as he could about his Savior and how to get closer to God.

“‘When I first read the Bible, I couldn’t understand it. I wanted a bible study in the morning and in the afternoon. I felt my day wasn’t complete if I didn’t read the Bible,’ he shares.”

Two Bible passages were quoted by Dyan as among Pacman’s favorites:

Joshua 1:8: “Keep this book of the Law always in your lips. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Those same Bible verses I treasure. Why? Because they’re positive and speak of a great future if you follow the Lord.

At that ABS-CBN event, Manny was accompanied by Jinkee and their four children. He was also with Pastor Jeric Soriano and, upon arrival at the TV station, introduced his group as the “Pacquaio Word Worship” team. (Quick question: You think Manny will remain a Catholic? I hope so.)

RONNIE. TV and newspaper personality Ronnie Nathanielsz was also at the same event.

“We were impressed not just with the facility with which he handled the role of a preacher-man,” wrote Ronnie, “but the genuineness with which he reached out to use his own life’s example as a magnet to get people to change their ways and to believe in the word of God and to learn to love Him like never before.

“There was, on Manny’s face, a look of sometimes childlike innocence. In many ways, we felt it was a reflection of his transgressions being washed away by genuine repentance and a new Manny Pacquiao being born again—and we hasten to add —within himself.”

After I read Ronnie’s column, I emailed him. Here’s what he sent back yesterday:

“John: I’m glad you liked the piece I wrote. It was from the heart because I could sense the change within him and his sincerity.

“In the beginning he asked the huge crowd at the ABS-CBN Dolphy Theater whether they had eaten and then responded by saying that ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but  by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

“He repeated the story of his dream where God asked him why he had gone astray and said he had wept in his dream and when he woke up his pillow was soaking wet.

“Manny admitted his many transgressions and said that was the old Manny Pacquiao, this is now the new Manny Pacquiao.”

Is Manny Pacquiao now a good boy?

The Congressman from Sarangani has always been good. He’s good at boxing—winning his last 15 bouts. He’s good at accumulating wealth—earning $20 million per 36 minutes hopping on the ring. Manny is good at strumming the guitar and singing Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.” He’s even good at attracting many of the world’s celebrities to be Pacman fans—Mark Wahlberg, Kobe B., Paris Hilton, the Boston Celtics, and Barack Obama all count as his admirers and friends.

But, as good as Manny has been inside that boxing square and around the entertainment circles, we also know he’s been bad.

Manny gambles money. He keeps a squadron of fighting cocks. He sleeps inside the Casino with both eyes wide open. Prior to his 2007 fight against Marco Antonio Barrera, a few friends from Cebu swear by his late-night exploits inside the exclusive sanctity of the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.

Manny loves women. From Ara Mina to Krista Ranillo to Kat Ordoñez, these rumors have enriched gossip magazines like YES!—and kept Jinkee Pacquiao from sleeping well at night. Manny’s exploits make Tiger Woods look saintly.

That’s the bad. The good news? Manny is reading the Good News. Yes, I mean, the Bible. In a recent TV interview with Dyan Castillejo, Manny confessed to his sinful ways and vowed to change and become a renewed Christian.

(AFP Photo)

“‘Pagsusugal, yung pag-iinom, yung mga pambababae. Kung ano mga kalokohan mga barkada. Kung anong ginagawa diyan…’ (Gambling, drinking, women.. all kinds of vices…).. he said,” enumerating his sins in the story, “Pacquiao: Encounter with God changed me.”

“‘If I had died last year or in the last 2 years,” said Manny, “I am sure I would’ve gone straight to Hell. My faith in Him is there 100 percent but behind it, I was still doing evil.”

Manny relates the story of having a dream after the Juan Manuel Marquez fight last November. He was amidst the forest when a bright light stopped him with the voice, “Son, why are you going away from me?” He woke up from the dream crying and soon opened the Bible.

Translated in English, Pacquiao said in that interview: “In the old times, the Lord talked to people through their dreams. So I said, my dream is real. I have to change my life. Maybe it was God calling because he knows what’s in my heart, that I believe in Him but still do bad things, things that don’t please Him.”

The quick learner on the ring, he quickly changed his ways. In an Inquirer Mindanao story, “Friends say Pacquiao is a changed man,” by Aquiles Zonio, it says:

“Mayor Reynaldo Constantino of Malungon, Sarangani, a close political ally of the Sarangani representative, said that recently, Pacquiao sold a casino he operated in a five-star hotel in Manila and divided the proceeds among the affected employees.

“Pacquiao then disposed of his fighting cocks at his sprawling MP Farm in Malungon. He gave all his game fowls to his close friends. The guy is really determined to change for the better,’ Constantino said.”

In Gen. Santos City, at a place we visited during a Rotary District Conference two years ago, Pacquiao closed the J-Mix Restaurant and Bar. They used to frequent his bar for drinks and billiards. Also, said the Inquirer story, MP now keeps only one cellphone—without any password; which means Jinkee can view his messages freely.

“The power of the word of God has changed Manny,” said Jinkee. Daily, he prays and reads the Bible with the guidance of a pastor. Has Manny changed religion?

“He told me that he is still a Catholic,” said Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez. “He admitted that the one conducting daily bible service in his home is a Protestant pastor. So, I gave him a daily scripture guide and I directed a priest from a parish near his house to lead the conduct of a bible study.”

Said MP himself: “Being a Christian means accepting Christ as your saviour, your God. That is why you are called a Christian. If you remove ‘Christ’, there’s only ‘ian’ and that means ‘I am nothing.'”

Raymond Garcia watches Manny

Over two weeks ago, we witnessed Rep. Pacquiao’s controversial win against Mr. Marquez. We saw it on TV.

Atty. Raymond Alvin Neri Garcia watched it live. He not only saw the actual scuffle, he also visited the pre-fight festivities at Vegas.

“I was amazed at the number of people attending the weigh-in,” said Atty. Garcia. “Capacity of MGM Grand is 15,000 and about 7,500 attended. I estimate about half were Filipinos. Free entrance.”

The fight itself? “I had to pay $1,300 for a ticket I bought two months before,” he said. “It was worth every penny considering it reached 12 rounds. Once in a lifetime experience which fulfills one item in my bucket-list.”

What made the battle very pro-Marquez was the crowd. “About 70 percent of those who watched were Mexicans. That’s why the punches of Marquez were highlighted; the diehard Mexicans would scream as he’d connect with each punch.. and you could hear the boos and ahhs when Manny was declared the victor.”

Two other highlights in Raymond’s trip. One, his visit to the Wild Card Gym the Tuesday after the fight. He got to interview Freddie Roach. “It was an ‘off night’ for Manny, Roach admitted. In his own words, Roach said: ‘They didn’t do too well.”

One more unforgettable experience: His meeting Mike Tyson. “He was in one of the restaurants at the MGM Hotel. He was having pictures and signing autographs. I queued up for a photo and interviewed him. Said Tyson: ‘Pacqiuao will win big time but as to what round, I can’t tell.’”

Atty. Raymond, now back in Cebu, visited his brother, Dr. Jerald Garcia, in Hawaii. He flew to Las Vegas then drove to California and stayed there for two weeks.

“I was with Mark Dy and his wife Davely,” he said. “Also there was Chris Go, the owner of Prince Warehouse, who is taking his Masters in San Francisco. A lot of Cebuanos toured me around including Ronnie Seno and wife Malu. I stayed with them in L.A. Other Cebuanos included Paul Miaga, dad’s (Alvin Garcia’s) protocol officer when he was mayor, and Jovi Cabigon, dad’s executive assistant.”

Now we know: Pacman is not Superman

(Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Why do we feel so disappointed? First, our expectations were too high. KO by Round 3!!! Not farther than the 6th!! Round 10… the very, very latest!

Everybody anticipated a knockout. The bout wasn’t even about Manny winning or losing—that would have been a stupid question when you pit the world’s No. 1 against a “senior citizen.”

Prior to fight night, Manny was already declared the victor. The only question was, “Which round?” Anything less than a knockout—even a 12th round unanimous decision—would have been labeled a failure. Boy, were we shocked last Sunday!

We have been spoiled by Manny. We have grown accustomed to the machine-gun-like, rapid-fire, all-offensive barrage by MP. We saw how he trounced Oscar. We witnessed his mauling of Hatton. Margarito? Wasn’t his face bloody Mexican red? Same with Diaz? And Barrera? And everybody else since 2008? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

For with Manny, he has set the highest standards of pummeling and hammering and battering enemies. He has spoon-fed us, each time, with Michael Jordan-like performances.

He’s not Michael Jordan. He’s human. He doesn’t fly. He may be SuperManny but he’s no Superman.

Are these absurdly high expectations of Manny justified? Of course. He’s Ring Magazine’s P4P best. He’s the 10:1 favorite. He earns P1,300,000,000 per bout! You don’t pay someone that much gold without expecting the most golden of performances. And hasn’t Manny wowed us for over three years? Last weekend was his 15th straight win. Think about that. 15-0. That’s unheard of in this one-on-one, all-contact sport like boxing. You win some, lose some. Not Pacman. He wins and never loses.

He should have against Marquez. Conduct a survey among friends or boxing experts and the conclusion is similar: the judges were cross-eyed. Were they viewing a different game? Wasn’t it obvious?

This is what’s unique about boxing. I’ve said it before and I’ll print it again: Boxing is subjective. (The Olympics is worse; remember Onyok?) What my two eyes see is different from what you see… is different from what the front-row judges see.

But what we clearly saw was a different, almost-lousy Pacquiao. Here’s an interesting revelation: I don’t recall, even once, Manny connecting on a solid, powerful punch. Not once. For sure we’ll watch the replay but, based on recollection, there was not even one shot that staggered and wobbled Marquez. Right? Unbelievable. So un-Manny.

But, you know what? If you think back on his Mosley bout last May, didn’t we witness traces of the same? Manny then wasn’t impressive. Sure, Mosley backpedaled and ran the 42K inside the ring. But Manny was not the same aggressor as before. He did not assault and bombard Mosley.

Same with two days ago. He did not besiege J-M-M like he did Miguel Cotto. He did not jump and pounce on him. Yes, he bobbed left and right. Manny The Gladiator was left sitting in his Batasang Pambansa office. Instead, he was Manny The Tentative.

FLOYD. Which brings us to Mr. Mayweather. Is there a person who laughed and celebrated more than Floyd? The way he mauled Marquez in their September 2009 clash versus last weekend… you’d think Manny is no match against Money.

True. In fact, with that subpar showing, I’d declare that the No.1 pound-for-pound title be switched places… from Manny to Money. At least, for now.

Not that I like Mayweather. Everybody detests him. But against the same Mexican in the same weight, the American beats the Filipino. So, you can imagine the even-more-bloated ego of the already-egomaniac Floyd. Which brings us to a point that has circulated the rumor circles: Now that Floyd The Counterpuncher thinks he can easily beat Manny, will he say yes to May 2012?

Yes. And what a finale that would be for Pacquiao. Erasing the doubts of his loyalists, he reemerges for one final duel and silences the loudmouth. Then he retires. That will be a Michael Jordan moment.

Before Floyd, Manny will destroy J. Manuel

Seven mornings from today, traffic will halt. TV sets will be switched to full volume. Church masses at 11 A.M. will suffer few attendees. The crime rate? Down to zero. Movie theaters, previously empty before noon, will suffocate with viewers. The booze, San Mig Light, will ooze. Pigs will be slaughtered by the tens of thousands as lechon sales hit record numbers. Pinoys in America, many of them our cousins, will bond, laugh and congregate in reunions.

Hotels and bars will plant large screens and be smothered by spectators. Paris Hilton will watch. So will LeBron and Kobe. Surely, the Boston Celtics team, all friends of his and now in one-season-retirement, will cheer-on their Far East friend. Barack Obama, whose photo at the White House with Jinkee we’re still awaiting to see, might watch. He said so when the Os and the Ps met at the Oval Office.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? Of course. Only this time, he’ll salivate at the thought that, yes, had he agreed, it could have been him in Vegas facing our Manny.

Is it true? The May 5 date—the birthday of Salven Lagumbay—proposed by Mayweather as his fight night with Pacquiao? Ha-ha. We’ve heard this before. Loud mouth talks fast, dirty, nonsense. True. His mouth fires as fast as his fists. Do we believe his newest concoction?

No. It’s a way to steal some attention from Nov. 12, 2011. You know how Floyd covets adulation. When he’s not on the ring, he’ll create noise and uproar to channel the spotlight on him.

“Same old bull…” Bob Arum said. “The way they are going about it seems like a bizarre way to go about it. If you want to put it together, you meet, you talk. You don’t just come out and say, ‘The fight is May 5 at the MGM.’ What kind of negotiation is that? So I don’t take what they said seriously.”

Seriously, Floyd’s a joke. How about the suggestion of joker Jimmy Kimmel, whose “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show Mr. Pacquiao has visited, like a habit, in his last five pre-fight encounters? His proposal: Winner take all.

When asked if this was feasible, Manny answered, “I don’t think he will do it.”

What about you? Kimmel asked.

“Of course,” Manny said.

Fabulous idea, winner-take-all. That will add to the suspense and hype. Imagine our scare? And the anxiety of Floyd? The champ wins $75,000,000 and the loser… 0… 0… 0.

That might be a first. And won’t this gravitate this contest to the Greatest Ever of Sporting Events… besting “Thrilla In Manila?”

But first, before any thoughts of the 5/5/2012 extravaganza, the focus is on next Sunday. If you recall, Pacman will be aiming for his 15th straight victory. His overall record is 53 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses. The last time he lost was in March 2005 against his fellow SMB endorser, Erik Morales.

Against Juan Manuel Marquez in their Trilogy next weekend, everybody assumes a Pacquaio victory. This is the burden of the champ. A victory by Marquez is implausible. Have you heard of anyone, apart from the Mexican’s camp, suggesting that the 38-year-old will win? Nada.

“You could see fire in his eyes,” reported Manny’s coach of 11 years, Freddie Roach. How motivated is Manny? A first in all his training camps, he’s only had a day off to rest two times. Yes. In eight weeks of brutal punishment, Roach reports that his man has rested only two days.

Overtraining? Peaking too soon? And no controversies! Nah. It reminds me of the late Steve Jobs’ commencement address in Stanford. His main theme: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” Pacquiao has forever stayed hungry (and, yes, foolish). His “Congressman” title did not force him to relax on the boxing mitts. His P388 million home in Forbes Park was left unused because he had to train in Baguio and L.A.

Roach adds that he’s never seen Manny train like this before. (Yes, we do hear this in every pre-fight.) “Not even when he was preparing to fight Oscar de la Hoya,” confided the 51-year-old Roach.   All this translates to a quick, lopsided, one-dimensional, as-usual, yes-we’ve-seen-this-before victory by our Pinoy. I can’t wait… For the lechon.

Manny vs Juan Manuel

Everybody who wears red gloves, who clenches their fists, grits their teeth, and confronts this Filipino diamond named Manny Pacquiao says the same thing: I’ll beat that Man.

Everybody, at the end of the 3rd or the 7th or the 12th round, with eyes swollen, ribs mutilated, cheekbones tarnished—all testify in unison: Man, he’s too good.

The last time someone defeated Pacquiao? The year was 2007. His name wasn’t David Diaz or Ricky Hatton or Joshua Clottey. All those and many more lost to MP.

The last one? A she: Darlene Antonino-Custodio. That was fought in the political ring—an arena unlike Manny’s preferred stage.

With boxing, it’s been 14 straight wins for Pacman. Not since March 2005—or six-and-a-half years ago; against San Miguel Beer endorser Erik Morales—has our modern-day Jose Rizal experienced a loss.

This November 12, Manny is assured of Victory No. 15 in the same way that Ateneo will surely win the UAAP crown. It’s a future fact that we know today.

Looking back, the first time Juan Manuel Marquez battled Pacquiao was in 2004. The score was a draw. Then, the second time they punctured each other’s abdomens, J-M-M beat M-P. You and I witnessed it. Yes, it was a close, close war—but I thought our man lost. Yet… our Man’ won. That was 3 ½ years ago.

Two months from now, when the Mexican and the taga-GenSan meet again, it won’t be a perplexing debate to judge. Marquez is 38 years old. That’s way too young to be a grandfather—but way too old to be a fighter. Manny will ambush him; he’ll bat his head with his knuckles; he’ll bust his jaws; Manny will wallop every inch of Juan Manuel’s bare chest and face and bloody him down to the floor of Las Vegas.

Bob Arum, nearly 80, is boxing’s Mr. Experience. He knows and we know that, this November, Manny will use the Mexican as a punching bag for next year’s Mayweather quarrel.

The Manny Pacquiao of Philippine business

The MVPs of sports: Monico Puentevalla, Manny P. and Manny P.

Manny makes the world go round. Or, as we’ve been taught since pre-school: “Money makes the world go round.” In Philippine business and in Philippine sports, it’s the former statement: Manny does make the earth revolve. The two Mannys I’m referring to are: Pangilinan and Pacquiao.

MannyPa. Manny Pangilinan is the MVP of our country’s world of commerce. Pitted against billionaires named Lucio, Henry, Aboitiz, Zobel, E. Razon, Gokongwei, Andrew Tan, and Cojuangco, the MVP of them all is MVP.

He may not be the richest. He did not inherit a 175-year-old company named “Ayala.” He’s not even married and doesn’t have children. But, if you make a survey among CEOs and ask who, among their fellow chieftains, is the most aggressive industrialist in today’s corporate setting, the answer is obvious: MannyPa.

He is either the chairman or the president of these giant companies: PLDT, Meralco, ABC/TV5, San Beda College (Board of Trustees), Smart Communications, Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Piltel, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp…. and many, Manny more.

I write about him because of his involvement in sports. Again, compared to a long-time heavyweight in sports like, for example, Danding Cojuangco of San Miguel Corporation, nobody has done more for our nation than Manny Pangilinan.

He rebuilt Ateneo. They’re the three-time UAAP champions. And, with Kiefer and Greg, they’re expected to slaughter all opposition this school year.

He patronized the San Beda Red Lions. It was at San Beda where he studied his elementary and high school. In return, he’s helped their basketball program. The result? The Red Lions are the 2010-11 champions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This means that, in both the UAAP and NCAA, the twin teams that MVP supported are the champions.

Smart man? In the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), he owns two teams: the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters and the Meralco Bolts. Talk ‘N Text have won the 2010-2011 Philippine Cup and the Commissioner’s Cup.

The Smart Gilas squad? Of course, based on their first name, “Smart,” it’s clear who sponsors our Philippine amateur team. MVP leads the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. In boxing, he also leads the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP). His long-term goal: to produce the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. In taekwondo, MVP also bolsters their national program.

And, if all this success within our Philippine shores were not enough, Manny P. attempted a deal that’s never been accomplished by any Filipino, ever: The purchase of an NBA team. MVP lobbied to buy the Sacramento Kings. “I have to admit, the idea is very titillating,” he said. “It’s a great tribute to the country… Whether we do it or not, it’s a great idea for a Filipino group to own an NBA team.”

The plan was for MVP to pay as much as $260 million for a majority stake in the Kings. This whopping figure (about P10 billion in Php Pesos) would have been funded, according to reports, by “his personal capacity.” Unfortunately, it appears that the deal won’t push through. But, whether it’s next season or three years from now, expect MVP, now 65 years old, to pursue that NBA dream.

Well, here we are this weekend of July 23 and 24. On the topic of the NBA, if MVP cannot purchase a team, he might as well bring their best players to our shores. Lucky for Manila but unlucky for us taga-probinsya, MVP has invited MVPs Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose. Also in Manila are Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Derek Fisher and many more are here.

Last night, the NBA selection played the PBA All-Stars. Today, at 1 p.m., Kobe and Co. will face Chris Tiu and the Smart Gilas national squad. Yesterday’s game was shown live on (where else), the IBC 13 (TV5) network of Mr. Pangilinan, while today’s game will be shown delayed at 5:30 p.m.

The venue? No longer called Araneta Coliseum, it’s recently been renamed to… “Smart Araneta Coliseum.”

Smart, aggressive, sports-obsessive… what a Most Valuable Pinoy.

Mosley, mostly scared, is just like Money

DIPOLOG CITY–Jasmin, Jana and I, our trio family of Js, are here in the Sardines Capital of the Philippines because Jana, our 12-year-old only child, is representing Region VII in the 54th Palarong Pambansa. She’s playing elementary tennis.

PacMan last Sunday? Yes, we watched. Together with the Cebu tennis team, a dozen of us gathered inside the guest house of the Montaño family–the relatives of my mom and the owners of the famed Montaño Spanish Sardines. Like tens of thousands of other gatherings nationwide, we huddled as one Filipino family to rejoice in the victory of The Great One.

Jana Pages and Janel Dihiansan

Yes. While Jose Rizal, our undisputed national hero, is celebrating his 150th year in nearby Dapitan City, we, too, are celebrating our 21st Century hero who sports the haircut of Jose Rizal (or is it Bruce Lee? or Justin Bieber?).

The fight, as we all agree, was boring. We had gotten used to MP wounding and inflicting blood and swollen eyeballs on Oscar and Margarito and Ricky and Diaz. Two days ago, it was ala Clottey. “He ran and ran,” said Manny. “He felt my power but did not want to stand with me. He wanted to get through 12 rounds. I thought he would fight toe to toe for at least five rounds, and then test our power and stamina. What am I going to do if my opponent does not want to go toe to toe? I’m disappointed for the fans.”

At the very end of the career of this nearly 40-year-old man was a strategy: to preserve his “I’ve-never-been-KOed-before” resume. After the third round, when Manny pummeled him with a left swing, this “Please, Manny, please, no knockout” plea was reinforced. Mosley backpedaled. He avoided Manny like Tommy and Mike would avoid each other. (Mosley landed only 82 of 260 punches; worse than Clottey’s 108 of 399 punches against MP.)

Pacquiao, himself, was unimpressive. He was too conservative. He wanted to win — not, as Bobby Inoferio would term it, by “Hattonizing” Mosley, but — via points. He was not the Mike Tyson we know. Maybe he was fearful of Mosley’s right fist. Maybe he had cramps. (But, seriously, cramps in the fourth round?) Whatever the reason, he wasn’t Thor Manny, whose left arm is a hammer. Some speculate it was overtraining. If we look back at this training camp of MP, it was, as Ariza and Roach would say, “the best training we’ve had.” One extra week was added to the schedule. There were zero distractions. No Krista Ranillo. No Ara Mina. No swimming pool training sessions. No gambling at the Waterfront Hotel’s private room.

Rep. Pacquiao, the now-good boy, wasn’t used to this. He was too clean, too focused. He was even too nice. (Can MP get a little nastier, at least on the ring? Just kidding.) Maybe Manny always needs pre-fight distractions? Ever the multi-tasker, maybe he needs more TV sitcom tapings, more Manila weekend night-outs. Maybe he needs to train, like he did for Barrera in 2007, complete with every-Sunday basketball sessions against our sportswriters group… here in Cebu.

On the more serious note, I like the analysis of CITOM Chairman Jack Jakosalem, a good friend of MP and an astute fan who never fails to watch (and record, in 1080p HD video) all the local boxing gigs. “I know many were disappointed,” said Jack. “But you have to remember that Mosley and Pacman are two of the most experienced boxers. They know that there’s no room for error. They could not be too aggressive because both have great speed and power. Pacquiao realized this when he saw Mosley knock Margarito out in nine rounds while it took him all 12 to get a UD. Mosley saw it when Pacquiao stopped Cotto in the 12th round while he lost to Cotto. At least we are now convinced that Pacquiao is better than Mayweather. Both fought Mosley and Mayweather didn’t dominate even close to the way Pacquiao did.”

I agree. So, I’m sure, do you. Manny vs. Money will end up with our own besting that loud mouth. However scared Floyd is, I am confident that 2012 — an Olympic year — is that moment when M & M will battle. I’ll go and watch the show. I hope Floyd shows up, too.

Money, Manny, Money

ABBA, the Swedish pop group that sold over 375 million records, had a No. 1 song called “Money, Money, Money.” Released in 1976 — two years before another No. 1, Manny Pacquiao, was born — the lyrics read: Money, money, money / Must be funny / In the rich man’s world / Money, money, money / Always sunny / In the rich man’s world… / A man like that is hard to find… / So I must leave, I’ll have to go / To Las Vegas or Monaco

Sounds like it depicts a man named Manny with plenty of money in Vegas, right? Right. Because if you research on the Top 10 highest-earners in sports, you’ll find the following men on the list: Tiger Woods (# 1, $100 million), Kobe Bryant (2, $45M), Michael Jordan (3, $45M), Kimi Raikkonen (4, $45M), David Beckham (5, $42M), LeBron James (6, $40M), Phil Mickelson (8, $40M), Lionel Messi (9, $39M) and at No. 10, Alex Rodriguez, who earned $39 million.

If you look closely at the names, it’s missing one. You, of course, know this one. He’s number one in boxing. Rated # 7 in earnings for 2010, Manny’s money is estimated at $40,000,000. Translated to our currency, that’s P1.72 billion. Yes, no mistaken multiplication. Manny earned P1,720,000,000 in a 12-month period (from mid-2009 to mid-2010), mainly for just two fights, against Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto.

Two weeks ago, I read “PACMAN,” his biography. Gary Andrew Poole, the author, narrates of how poor Manny was (one meal a day, no place to sleep upon arrival in Manila, skeleton-thin in build and malnourished). In the book, MP’s story is even more unbelievable than, say, the flying powers of Superman or the hammer-wielding strength of Thor.

The past few years, each time Pacman enters the boxing ring, he’s guaranteed $15 million. That’s over six hundred million pesos. Per fight. Per maximum of 12 rounds. Per maximum of 36 minutes. In what has to be one of the most incredible “earnings-per-second” of any man in our planet’s history, against Ricky Hatton, our Pinoy boxer scored a KO victory in 2:59 of Round 2. Computing the $12 million that Mr. Pacquiao earned, that equates to $2 million earned per minute! Imagine that: Manny’s money is two million dollars per 60 seconds.

Compared to other athletes, they’re all KO’ed by Manny’s earning power. Take Rafael Nadal. In winning last year’s U.S. Open (the world’s richest tennis event), he brought home to Mallorca, Spain the amount of $1.7 million. Nadal had to beat seven opponents in two weeks to earn that money. (Manny earned the same, against Hatton, in less than a minute.) Or, shifting from sports to showbiz, how about comparing MP to, for example, a movie star like Will Smith. Last year, he was estimated to have earned a whopping $29 million. That’s plenty of green bucks for the Men In Black actor. Still, it’s much less compared to our Pinoy boxer who also doubles, unfortunately, as a money-losing movie actor.

MAY 8. This morning, Philippine time, as traffic stops, church pews are emptied, burglary ceases, mothers are celebrated, and everybody’s Filipino eyeballs fixated on the TV screens, Manny will feast on Las Vegas money. Guaranteed $20 million, plus-plus-plus the revenues from PPV and many more +++s, Rep. Pacquiao, to no surprise, has been declared by our congress as our nation’s “richest Congressman.” He declared more than a billion pesos net worth.

Imagine if, after beating Mosley this morning, he returns to Las Vegas in October then obliterates Juan Manuel Marquez, taking home another briefcase of cash amounting to $25M, then, next year, if the Fight of the Century happens, he adds $50,000,000 to his pocketbook and blemishes Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s record? No Hollywood movie — even the L.A. Lakers’ unbelievable 0-3 record to Dallas Mavericks — can beat his true-to-life story.

Manny’s many definitions of ‘MP’

I’ve had the rare opportunity, back in September of ‘007, to witness Manny Pacquiao train. It was at the Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym in Labangon and, thanks to Philboxing’s co-administrator Salven Lagumbay (who, coincidentally, is celebrating his birthday today), I watched MP up-close. Twice.

“Manny Pacquiao had just finished 10 rounds of sparring,” I wrote four years ago. “Tired? Did he look fatigued? No. How about recharged? Or pumped-up? For one-and-a-half hours, I observed Manny. After sparring, Manny stepped down the ring then proceeded to pummel the double-end bag. He stared at the round leather that hung from the ceiling, encircled it, threw quick jabs, moved his head left, ducked, stepped back, forward.”

MP. Those initials don’t just spell out the initials of the most famous Pinoy, they also translate to many words. Maximum Pain. That’s one. For no boxer — and possibly athlete — is willing to drip more sweat, digest more punishment, and smile more while relishing all the affliction, than MP.

Gordon Marino of The Wall Street Journal, yesterday, wrote a stellar piece, “The Fight of the Physical Outlier.” I quote some portions…

“Pacquiao does 2,000 repetitions each day of situps and other punishing abdominal exercises,” said Marino. “He rounds out these exercises by, among other things, fast hill runs, interval training, zipping around cones to improve footwork and even, when no fight is coming up, playing basketball.”

MP’s resting heart rate is 42. That’s absurdly low. “Some endurance athletes, like Olympic cross-country skiers,” said Mr. Marino, “have lower resting pulse rates—somewhere around 38, Ariza says—but they also train at high altitude, something Pacquiao doesn’t. ‘Manny is on the level of the most conditioned athletes in the world,’ the trainer says. ‘He’s a phenomenon. I wish we could do in-depth tests, but he doesn’t like anything invasive.’”

This MP spells Mankind’s Phenomenon. MP is so gifted and driven that boxers often try to emulate his training. They can’t. In my two visits to the RWS Gym, I interviewed boxers and trainers. They all recited the same Quotable Quote: “Many follow Manny’s intense training. They all get sick!”

MP = Marvelous Pugilist. Simply, MP trains too hard, too intensely, too much. Haven’t we read of Alex Ariza and Freddie Roach asking their pupil to slow down and relax? Wow. How many athletes have been told the same? I can’t remember any other.

“Manny will go 15 rounds hitting the pads with me, and do exercises in the 60-second intervals between rounds,” says Roach. ‘It’s crazy.’”

“On days when we have heavy sparring, we like to cut out the morning run,” Ariza says. “Manny knows this and he’ll plead, ‘Please don’t stop me from running today.'”

While 98.7 percent of us often ask for stoppage to excruciating physical torture, it’s the opposite for MP. “Other differences that make Pacquiao stand out are the intensity and tempo at which he trains and fights, and his ability to ignore pain,” wrote Gordon Marino. “Most boxers are constantly trying to decide when to expend energy and when to take a round off. Pacquiao likes to know that he has enough training in the bank to allow him to bring the most intense heat possible and to punch almost continuously.”

Muscle Power. That’s MP. Shawn Porter, his sparring-mate, explains: “Sure, Manny is fast and hits hard, but the thing that is special with him is his intensity. It is electric in there. He is always pushing the pace.”

Ariza, quoted by Marino, likens Pacquiao to a military person (Navy SEAL?) who has the ability to extinguish pain during heavy exertion. Said Ariza: “Manny is definitely one of them. When Manny was a kid, he would run five miles a day in flip flops. Try that for a while and it will not only toughen your feet up, it will increase your pain tolerance.”

Digesting all this penance, Manny, who is set to earn P600,000,000 this Sunday, is also this MP: Mega-billionaire Pinoy.

Finally, our MP hope… Mosley, Pildi.

Is Shane Mosley boxing’s Randy Couture?

Last Saturday night in Canada, Randy Couture, three years shy of his golden birthday, got pounded in the jaw by Lyoto Machida’s flying kick; his head snapped at the ferocity of the impact as he tumbled on the Octagon floor.

Randy Couture is a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the–if not THE–most famous mixed-martial artist on earth. He’s revered. Yet, he is antique. Compared to Machida, who’s 15 years younger, Couture was primitive. Like S. S. Mosley?

With five days left before Manny Pacquiao battles another elderly, are we to expect the same quick finish? We hope so, of course. But this might be unrealistic. In an article in The Phil. Star last April 19, my favorite scribe, Quinito Henson, outlined reasons why Shane Mosley is not an easy prey.

Why Mosley is Dangerous,” Henson’s column title, he enumerated 14 bullet points on the strength of the Californian. I’ll cite a few.

“He has one-punch knockout power in either hand, particularly the right,” said Quinito in Reason # 1. “In boxing, all it takes is a single connection and the fight could be over. Mosley boasts a knockout rate of 85 percent or 39 KOs of 46 wins, compared to Pacquiao’s 73 percent or 38 KOs of 52 wins.”

An 85 percent knockout rate is remarkable. As hard as MP has trained for this Sunday — possibly the best training he’s ever done — he’s got to be careful of Mosley’s right blow.

“He’s the only fighter to defeat the legendary Oscar de la Hoya twice,” said Quinito. These wins were in 2000 and 2003, back when ODLH was still in his prime.

“He’s the ‘longest’ fighter ever to battle Pacquiao with a startling 74-inch wingspan,” said Quinito. “That translates to a massive seven-inch reach advantage for Mosley. Two Pacquiao victims, Margarito and De la Hoya, both measure 73 inches in wingspan.”

Another reason, cited Mr. Henson: “He’s comfortable fighting in the 147-pound division. Mosley has weighed over 142 pounds for 22 bouts since 1999. Pacquiao has fought in only four fights weighing over 142 since 2008. Pacquiao scaled 142 pounds for De la Hoya, 144 for Miguel Cotto, 145 3/4 for Joshua Clottey and 144 1/2 for Margarito. Mosley will likely weigh five to 10 pounds more than Pacquiao when they square off. The edge in heft may be an advantage or a disadvantage for Mosley.”

Maybe because of “over-training” (Freddie Roach has advised his pupil to slow down), the Sarangani congressman weighs reportedly less now than while preparing for his past fights. We hope this does not translate to him weighing, on fight night, 10 or more lbs. lighter than Mosley.

“He has experience on his side,” added Quinito. Sugar Shane has fought in 53 fights that totaled 376 rounds. He’s joined 19 world title fights. Manny? He’s done 329 rounds, 57 bouts and 16 world title bouts. “Mosley racked up a record of 38-0, with 35 KOs, before tasting his first defeat nine years after turning pro. Pacquiao raced to an 11-0 record, with only three KOs, before suffering his initial setback to Torrecampo in 1996,” said Quinito.

Mosley defeated Antonio Margarito. So did Pacquiao. But, while Manny went 12 rounds with the Tijuana Tornada, Mr. Mosley finished the Mexican-American via a 9th round TKO.

Finally, in what to me is a crucial point, Quinito adds: “He fights like Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao had difficulty against the Mexican in two bouts. Marquez, a technician, counter-punched and repeatedly found an opening for his right hand down the middle, into the heart of Pacquiao’s defense. Mosley will try to do the same on May 7.”

These Mosley advantages don’t mean he’s the favorite. Far from it. As we know, the odds are this: Your P70,000 bet on Manny will win you only P10,000. And vice versa for Mosley: bet P100 on him and you’ll win P700.

Still, as what we’ve seen mid-April when underdogs Orlando Salido and Victor Ortiz upset Juan Manuel Lopez and Andre Berto, there are no guarantees in boxing. Let’s just hope that, at a prehistoric age of 39, Mosley will do a Couture and end up in the same place come fight’s end. On the floor.

The Wakee Salud confession: I helped Manny

Wakee, introducing Manny to Nonito, during the 2009 Cebu Sports Awards

Yesterday morning, I spoke to one of Congressman Pacquiao’s best friends. “Manny and I became close in 2005,” said Rex “Wakee” Salud, who was in Cagayan de Oro yesterday when we talked for 18 minutes. “He had just lost the fight to Morales and I invited him to attend a promotion I organized in Lapu-Lapu. Manny came. That’s when our friendship started.”

Since then, M & W have been inseparable. Maybe you can call Mr. Salud “the good luck charm” of Rep. Pacquiao because, after their meeting, PacMan has not lost a fight since. That’s 13 straight wins leading up to Mosley. “Every fight since we became close, I’ve watched in person,” said Wakee, who’ll be flying to Las Vegas next Tuesday, on May 3.

Wakee’s biggest contribution to Manny’s career? It was convincing our Pinoy pride to stick with Bob Arum after he had signed with Oscar de la Hoya. “After Manny defeated Morales, he no longer wanted to sign with Top Rank,” said Wakee. “It was one of his last fights with their promotion. We were together in Denny’s restaurant in Los Angeles. Then, Freddie Roach fetched him in the airport. I didn’t know where they went. Attorney Gacal was with them…”

Of course, now we know that Manny met with Oscar de la Hoya that day. “Oscar offered $500,000 cash as signing bonus. Manny took it. He signed the contract. The next day, after the press conference, Bob Arum wanted to meet with Manny. At first, he refused. I asked Manny to listen to Bob; anyway, there was no harm in listening. And so, in one room, it was just the four of us: Manny, Bob Arum, myself and Michael Koncz. While Arum was speaking, Manny was just nodding his head. All along, while he did not say it, he had already signed with Golden Boy Promotions.

“I flew back to the Philippines. I arrived in Manila on a Friday and flew to Cebu on Sunday. Then Manny called. That’s when he told me about his acceptance of the $500,000 and his signing with Golden Boy. I told him he should have put that on hold first. Maybe Arum will match that offer. ‘Come here right away,’ said Manny. ‘I can’t,’ I said. ‘I just got home and it’s a Sunday. The travel agencies are closed.‘ But Manny insisted. And so on Monday, I bought a ticket and returned to L.A.”

At that point, nobody knew what was going on behind the scenes. Nobody could talk to Manny. Except one… RWS. “Ako ra gyud maka-duol ni Manny (It was only I, at that time, who could talk to Manny),” he said. “I stayed for 10 days in L.A., even spending my birthday there. Manny was afraid to go back to Arum. Hadlok siya mo pirma (He was afraid to sign), given that he had just signed with Oscar.”

Arum made a counteroffer of $1,000,000. “Plus, he would handle all the legal problems that were sure to happen,” said Wakee. “Manny further negotiated. He asked that the TV rights in the Phils. be under him. Arum said okay.”

The rest, as the cliche goes, is history. Who knows what would have happened had MP cemented his agreement with ODLH? “For sure,” said Wakee, “there would have been no Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya fight. How can a promoter fight his own boxer?”

I asked Wakee about next weekend’s May 7 fight. “Before Manny left for America, we were together. I was able to go up to Baguio and watched him spar for five rounds. At that time, he had cough and colds, maybe due to the hot-and-cold changing weather. Even when I dropped him at the airport before he flew to L.A., he was coughing.” Wakee’s prediction? KO before Round 10.

What makes MP unbelievable? “He’s one of a kind. His resistance is unbelievable. He trains the longest. Even though he’s been absent from his workouts prior to training, when he’d come back, his stamina is still there. One time, we were together and, for three straight days, he did not sleep. We played poker, billiards. Pulaw siya tu-lo ka gabii. Imagine that. For us, we’d already faint and weaken. Not Manny. His resistance is so strong. He’s one of a kind. And, most of all, it’s God-given. Even Manny himself says so. Manny knows it’s a gift from God.”

PacMan: The best MP biography I’ve read

UBAY, Bohol – I’m here with my father-in-law, Jacinto “Jack” Mendez. The past three days, in between church visits, we eat fresh crabs, nap, watch the sunrise, exchange stories, swim, read. We’re at his rest-house that’s situated on a ledge and overlooking 180 degrees of the sea.

I brought a book. “PacMan: Behind the scenes with Manny Pacquiao, the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world” is written by Gary Andrew Poole, who used to write for the New York Times and GQ. It’s 248 pages long. Among the few books that I’ve read of MP, it’s the best.

Divided into 13 chapters, it begins with the Prologue. Manny is training in the Wild Card Gym. His daily meals at Nat’s Thai, which serves Filipino dishes, is well documented. The other chapters? Number One is “The City of Dust,” the author’s term for Gen. Santos City.

“The province, the place where Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao was born on December 17, 1978, is the fourth poorest in the Philippines, where boys risk their lives to climb coconut trees (to make fifty centavo per coconut), play basketball on dirt courts, ride four to a motorcycle, get addicted to shabu (a combination of meth and caffeine), and live in endless crap, with roosters, goats, stray dogs, and no running water.”

The American author, Mr. Poole, describes our country in the poorest of terms. Sure, we’re no rich New York City, but given that he wanted to portray Manny growing up amidst the most slum of cities, he describes us as a destination of dirt and dirty men.

“The Streets of Manila” is Chapter Two and it explains the path taken by Pacquiao, at age 15, from GenSan to Manila. Manny’s first residence is in Malabon and his first manager, Polding Correa. “The GenSan boys sold doughnuts and worked construction (once he didn’t eat for four days because his employer didn’t pay him),” wrote Poole in page 23.

The book is well-written. As you turn each page and your mind deciphers the words, you can’t wait for the next discovery in Pacquiao’s life. We’ve known about Manny’s dire upbringing — but it’s only after reading this book that you learn the details. “Life is difficult here,” said Manny. “There are times when I eat rice only once a day.” Those words Pacquiao wrote to his mom in a letter.

The tenacity and no-fear that Manny displays on the ring today, no doubt, can all be attributed to the years of poverty that he endured.

L&M was the name of his first boxing gym. It was along Paquita St. “In the fate-obsessed Philippines, it was known as a lucky gym for producing champions, but it was considered (with a sick sense of pride) the planet’s worst-smelling boxing establishment,” wrote Poole.

“‘When Pacquiao came here, he didn’t have anything,” says Ramon ‘Moy’ Lainez, the ‘L’ in the L&M. ‘He was a stowaway, and he wasn’t very strong. We didn’t expect much from him. He had a big heart, he really wanted to fight, he really trained, and he dreamed that someday he will be a world champion.” That appeared in page 25.

Of the many themes that emerged from the book, what stands tallest is the teamwork between MP and Freddie Roach. As we know, without Roach’s fatherly guidance, our Pinoy hero wouldn’t be as great. It was 10 years ago when Manny first met Freddie – when he was brought to the U.S. by Rod Nazario. After watching Manny hit the mitts for the first time in his gym, Roach commented, “The speed and power worked so well together. Kind of just jumped on you… Within three minutes, it was like we knew each other our entire lives.”

The rest of the chapters — “The Mexecutioner,” “The Golden Boy and the Hitman,” and “Going Global,” and more — are exciting. As I said, many episodes we partly know — but not the full details, which are all bared open in this book.

“Don’t Quote Me on the Women” is on Chapter 7. Self-explanatory, if you want tsismis and Krista Ranillo stories, read this portion.

Read this biography. With 14 days left before Shane Mosley tastes the gloves of Manny on his cheekbones, this is the perfect appetizer and prequel. Happy Easter!

Tommy O’s stories about Manny P.

Manny steals my candies, said Tommy Osmeña. Yes, that’s true. The richest athlete that our nation has ever produced, pocketing P500,000,000 per blockbuster fight, the man who owns mansions spanning Los Angeles and General Santos, the congressman who bankrolled his own election campaign… yes, this billionaire codenamed Pacman… steals the candies of Tommy O.

“We sit beside each other in Congress,” said Tomas R. Osmeña, the Congressman of the Cebu City South District of his counterpart Representative of Sarangani Province. “I always keep candies in my drawer. After I leave my seat and come back, they’re gone. I look at Manny. He has all my candies!”

Last Wednesday night, I was seated beside Tommy. To my right was Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young. We were at the International Culinary Arts Academy of Cebu, or the ICAAC (owned by the younger brother of the vice mayor, Jeremy Young). Our group of 20 included my fellow members from the Rotary Club of Cebu West: Lenton Beltran, Ex Bollozos, Andrew Ching, Nilo Domingo, Romy Dy Pico, Nonito Narvasa, Francis Onglatco, Carlo Suarez, Alvin Tan, Justin Uy, Wilton Uykingtian and John Young. Joining us were three Rotarians from Rotary Singapore West: Tay Wei Lien, Darryl Kuek, Chio Poh Leng and Ashley McKinnon, plus a representative of SOS Phils., Pamela Daguman. Our Rotary groups were invited by Vice Mayor Young for dinner to celebrate our joint project with the Cebu City government and DepEd. We donated a total of 50,000 books to the Library Hub.

In our dinner of fresh salad with white cheese, the main dish of salmon, asparagus and scallops, and dessert of freshly-made chocolate ice cream, we discussed a milieu of topics. They ranged from Pres. Noynoy’s visit to Singapore (and having to climb 20 flights of stairs when the elevator broke down) to Flor Contemplacion’s execution in 1994 to the Magazine Hub project that we’re targeting for Cebu City. Then, we talked in length about the world’s most popular Filipino.

“I asked to be seated beside Manny in Congress,” said Rep. Osmeña. “The story about the candies? I ended up placing a bunch full of candies inside his drawer so he won’t steal from me.” John Young, seated to Tommy’s left, laughed.

“How many times have you watched Manny fight?” I asked. Tommy sat expressionless. Mentally, he was counting. “I can’t remember how many because I’ve watched so many of his fights,” he said. This May 7 in Las Vegas, Pacquiao’s good friend and fellow congressman will once more be there to cheer for him.

The Ricky Hatton KO? “The morning before each fight, Manny always has mass celebrated. I was there. I had just recovered from cancer. The moment I entered the room, Manny saw me. He asked that I sit beside him. ‘But, no,’ I said, ‘that’s reserved for Jinkee.’ Manny insisted. I sat beside him during mass. Then, during the homily, the priest asked Manny to say a few words. Manny got the microphone and, instead, gave it to me. He wanted me to say something. I said no. Finally, Manny spoke and, in the end, interrupted the mass and forced me to speak. I talked about my own fight — and victory — over cancer.”

Manny is a very caring person, said Tommy. He’s always concerned. During his birthdays, the Pambansang Kamao never fails to call and greet.

“When I had my bout against cancer,” said Osmeña, “I received a phone call the night before Manny’s fight against Oscar de la Hoya. He said, ‘Are you coming to watch?’ I said, ‘No, I can’t. I’m in Houston. But my son Miguel will be there.’”

Tommy wished Manny good luck while Manny wished Tommy a speedy recovery. “Then, the day after the fight, when nobody expected Manny to beat De la Hoya but he did, I get another unexpected call. It’s Manny. Imagine how busy he is, swamped with all these people. He remembers to call. That’s how good a person he is. You know what Manny told me?”

Our Rotary table sat silent, awaiting. “I won my fight,” Manny told me. “Now you win yours.”

Balamban runs, thanks to Runner Dave

Manny Pacquiao, after nearly four months of non-boxing, has started training in Baguio. With only 7 1/2 weeks left before his May 7 bout with Shane Mosley, it will be another laborious and agonizing time for Pacman.

Eddie Alinea of Philboxing interviewed Freddie Roach last Saturday. “The first day, or the first week for that matter, will be strictly on physical conditioning,” said Roach. “It will be all Alex’s (Ariza) show. Manny will be working with Alex 90 percent of the week.”

Ariza, the fitness coach of Manny, added: “I know Manny. I know that when he starts training he will give his 100 percent attention to it. Of course, like last year, there will be a lot of disturbances owing to his job as a congressman, but we will try to minimize that. He’s proven himself to be a pro in the past decade that we’ve been together and that won’t change.”

Of MP’s “short” preparation, Ariza countered: “For a boxer of Manny’s status, there is no such thing as a short training period. In fact, knowing him, the shorter the preparations are, the better for him. This is because, for many times, he has shown his capability to catch up.”

AZKALS. The PHL vs. Mongolia game will be shown live starting 12 noon today over Studio 23 (replay at 7 p.m.). It will also be shown 3 p.m. on Balls SkyCable 34.

The weather is a factor. Although our players are mostly from Europe (thus, they’re used to the cold), it’s reportedly as cold as -10 Celsius in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

Targets? “Honestly I expect 2 or 3 goals,” said Phil Younghusband. “Hopefully a better result than the last game.”

MAGSAYSAY. Future Balamban mayor (and today’s Councilor) Dave Karamihan loves running. He runs for public office; he organizes road-running races. He helps run one of the most dynamic of Rotary clubs: Cebu Fuente. (As to running on the road, when, Dave?) Now on its sixth year, here’s Councilor Dave on this weekend’s activities…

“We’re having the Paghandum ni Magsaysay Annual Adventure Trek. Activities start on March 19, Saturday, with a 21K (Climbathon) from the Municipal Oval to Mt. Manunggal. It used to be just 11km but the runners seem to make minced meat out of it so I made it 21km starting from the Poblacion. The last 5-6km is a dirt road.

“This is not your usual 21-km. city road. This is mostly uphill along the Transcentral highway. Water Stations will be aplenty. As for the Executive and Fun Runners, they will have different starting points along the route. Everyone (Open, Exec, Fun) starts simultaneously. Depending on the weather, the last third of the route is covered with fog! So it’s a race to the sky! Prizes start at 10K for 1st, 5k for 2nd, 3k for 3rd.

“On the same day will be the Painting Contest. This is our 4th straight year. Amateur and pro artists converge in nearby Adventure Cafe. In the evening, we party at the campsite. Ala concert at the Rock! Sponsored by SMB, as always, iba ang may pinagsamahan. Free flowing SMB for a Fee! hehe. Buy all you can… not drink all you can! The day after, March 20, we have the Mountain bike race. Race to Manunggal gihapon.

“I have my municipal dump trucks waiting near JY Square to ferry campers and racers in the early morning of March 19 and 20 (bikers). On March 20, I also have the same dump trucks ferrying campers home to Cebu City and Balamban. The campsite has toilet facilities for both men and women. Food stalls abound so no need to bring provisions. Participants are urged to help the local economy, so spend your money, bring your booty (kay concert man), experience the legacy, protect the ecology so leave with nothing but your memory! hehehe.

“This is the 54th Commemoration of the Death of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay. It was March 17, 1957 that his plane, the Mt. Pinatubo, crashed in Mt. Manunggal. So on March 17, we will have simple rites in the site to mark the tragic event. For details, call 3332190 loc 101 and look for Ceres Lozano.”