With my brother Charlie
Although he calls the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino his home here, I haven’t seen Manny pulling the levers of slot machines or sitting on a high stool and rolling the dice to wager on Craps. It’s not that kind of gambling I’m speaking of.
It’s this: Manny loves taking risks. Inside the ring, you know his style. Does he hide behind those two red gloves to cover his mustache? No. Manny pounces. Attacks. He’s aggressive. Assertive. He knocks on the head of his enemy not to kiss him—but to tutor the student on the definition of “K.O.” He swings punches that break ribs and bend jaws. That’s Manny. He sees blood, goes for blood. For the risky shot. He gambles.
Take basketball. For the past two Sundays, I guarded Manny on the wooden parquet floor. Is playing this game of LeBron James, you ask, a gamble? Of course. Think about it: Who, in his right mind, would risk injury and play basketball weeks before a Las Vegas fight that would pay him P150 million?
No one. Except one. Manny.
Far left, that’s Manny with the jump-shot… That’s me (No.9)
Last week, I sat beside Freddie Roach at the lobby of Waterfront. He was alone and I introduced myself. We spoke about our basketball game—and how Manny and I collided and fell to the floor.
“In all my years of boxing experience,” Freddie said, “basketball causes the most injuries. To the finger. Elbow. Knee. Ankle. I’ve spoken to Manny about this but… well… he’s his own man.”
Yes. Manny’s his own man.
That’s who Manny is. That’s what makes him, well… so unlike me and you. While you and I will play it safe—“Oh, that’s too dangerous,” we’ll whisper—Manny is flying with acrobatic moves that would shame Vince Carter.
This is why Manny is Manny. And why there aren’t many of Manny. He takes risks. Lives life to the hilt. Spills his sweat and guts on the floor—be it boxing or basketball.
Remember the elections? Everybody except his Gen. Santos City house dogs advised Emmanuel Dapigran Pacquiao not to run against Darlene Antonino-Custodio. But what did Mr. Pacquiao do? He clenched his fists. Why? Because he stood ready for battle. The critics had emboldened him. They strengthened his resolve to prove them wrong. He loves risks. He took the risk. Unfortunately, we know Manny lost—and lost tens of millions.
This is our Manny Pacquiao.
If his personality were less aggressive, if he were less of a gambler, he wouldn’t own this title today: “Greatest Filipino boxer of all time.”
Back to our basketball game. You might be curious to ask: Did Manny hold back and play it safe? You tell me. When someone scores 27 points in Game One, 17 in Game Two, and 30 points in Game Three—is that person playing safe?
Wasn’t Manny quoted in the papers, when asked by Freddie Roach why he played so hard, didn’t Manny answer, “I just ran back and forth the court.”
Ha-ha. And score 30 points?
Manny gives his all. He always does. He fired from beyond the three-point line. He shot 22-footers. He dribbled, sprinted down the lane, scrambled for loose balls, rebounded. His favorite move? Ahh… The crowd loved this: He drove down the middle, lobbed the ball against the backboard, jumped to catch it in midair, then alley-hooped for the two-pointer.
Superstars are many. But only one Manny.