Manny Pacquiao

PacMan: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am


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PacMan: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao
by Gary Andrew Poole
Da Capo Press HK$200

Despite his modest physical stature, Manny Pacquiao is a boxing messiah. 'The people have rallied behind him and feel like they're a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class,' former heavyweight Lennox Lewis once told Time magazine. 'The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela's influence in South Africa,' Lewis added, tipping the 1.7-metre-tall Filipino as a future Philippine president.

In PacMan, biographer Gary Andrew Poole charts the champion's rise driven by a rabid thirst to excel. Pacquiao, who apparently trains harder than any other boxer, was raised by his mother on the Philippines' Mindanao Island: an outpost known for poverty, Islamic terrorists, and the November 23, 2009, massacre of several dozen journalists.

Toughened by his upbringing, the naturally sharp southpaw with a photographic memory evolved into one of the most formidable ever exponents of the 'sweet science'. Pacquiao is an eight-division world champion - the first boxer to win 10 world titles in eight different weight divisions.

No wonder The Ring magazine rates him as, pound for pound, the best boxer anywhere. The 31-year-old's record reads: won 51, lost three, drew two.

Pacquiao's master tactician arch rival, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, is unbeaten. Still, The Ring rates Mayweather inferior: number two.

Certainly, Mayweather has less public relations skill. Poole, who writes for Time and Esquire, casts him as charmless. 'He is a braggart,' Poole writes. '[He] owns more than a million dollars worth of wristwatches, [and] carries around US$30,000 in his pockets,' acidly adding that Mayweather is deft at dodging punches and Pacquiao bouts.

Mayweather's apparent evasiveness may be understandable because, instead of just beating rivals, Pacquiao hurts them. Some fights documented in Poole's slim, incisive biography are harrowing.

Despite the carnage, Pacquiao - a devout Catholic - fights fair. The self-styled 'nice guy' and father of four with a weakness for karaoke may even be too nice.

He throws money at his bizarre and bloated entourage that includes someone trying to breed a lion with a tiger and an arms dealer. Needy everyday Filipinos get in on the act, further denting Pacquiao's wealth.

One day, his money might evaporate. Scores of boxers, not least Mike Tyson, have squandered fortunes, becoming punch lines and tragic figures.

But Pacquiao, who was elected to Congress in May, looks unlikely to fall so far. Going by Poole - a brutally honest, even acerbic source - the touted future Philippine president has few objectionable flaws except an immature streak. Thanks to his constant drive towards perfection, for now Pacquiao looks unbeatable.