Of the many advisers of Emmanuel Pacquiao — from pastors to Chavit S. to his fellow congressmen to Mr. Arum — one of his closest buddies is Cebu-based businessman Rex “Wakee” Salud.
Wakee and Manny have been inseparable since 2005, right after MP’s loss to Erik Morales, when the boxing promoter invited the boxing fighter to Lapu-Lapu City.
After a wild ride of wild nights at the Casino gambling, of cock-fighting, of drinking, of many more exploits too salacious to print here — their friendship lasted seven years, 15 consecutive victories and, sadly, in the last two fights, back-to-back losses. In all these years and Las Vegas encounters, who friend watched from his corner every single time? RWS.
Wakee and I spoke yesterday. He had just arrived from the States, landing two days ago in Manila, a day ahead of Pacman. Where exactly did you sit and what did your eyes see in that 6th round ending? I queried.
“I sat behind Jinkee,” said Wakee. “I sat sa kilid (at the side). When it was nearing the final bell of that 6th round, I didn’t have a clear sight. The referee was covering Manny. I knew that Manny was going for the kill. He wanted to finish Marquez in that round. Then, all of a sudden, si Manny man ang natumba (it was Manny who fell).”
Everybody was shocked. If we, TV-goers, were stunned – can you imagine the hysteria and breakdown inside the MGM Grand, especially of Wakee, who sat just meters away from the fallen hero? The quick reaction, of course, was to storm the stage. “We wanted to go inside the ring but were not allowed,” he said.
“Sugat gyud (It was straight and head-on),” Wakee said. “It was a blind punch” that caught the overconfident and impatient Manny.
After the fight, as the hysteria had settled, Wakee wanted to accompany Manny to the hospital. But when he stepped inside the dressing room, they had left for the hospital tests. “So far, the check up was good,” he said. “But it’s best to have a more extensive check here. Just to be sure.”
SHOCK. Jinkee cried. The whole family cried. Everybody in Pacquiao’s Las Vegas entourage was in disbelief. “But when I went inside the suite room of Manny around 1 or 2 A.M., OK na sila. Nag-comedya na gani. (They were OK and were telling jokes.)”
This is boxing, said Wakee. Anything can happen. And Manny has accepted defeat.
I asked Wakee if he felt a premonition, a bad feeling, a sense that something harrowing was about to happen on December 8, 2012. “Wala gyud (None at all),” he said. The MP camp was very confident. (Overly-confident?) “We were relaxed and sige-comedya. In the locker room, I was with Steven Seagal. Later, I got the chance to meet the presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”
But, commenting on Pacman’s preparations, Wakee said that while the training in the States went “very well,” he said the preparations in the Philippines was not. Too many distractions again, he said.
ADVICE. Suggestions for his best friend? First, Wakee believes that Manny should fight again. He shouldn’t retire. Not yet. But – and here’s an important request — he’s pleading that, next year, when Manny fights, that he focus entirely on boxing.
First, he should have a thorough rest. And, when training arrives, to focus only on boxing. “His mind is into politics, is into religion, he’s accommodating too many friends — he has to focus,” said Wakee.
And, finally, the most important recommendation from RWS – one that, given the Typhoon Pablo-like disaster that befell Pacman, makes a lot of good sense:
“For me, it’s not wise to fight Marquez right away,” said Wakee. “Ayaw ibigla. Don’t rush. Fight another opponent first. Have one tune-up fight. Then, observe. This will give Manny confidence before facing Marquez in No. 5.”