x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Manny Pacquiao: a hero for our times, in and out of the ring

The boxing champion's strong values transcend the world of sport

Manny Pacquiao, left, and Adrien Broner, right, during weigh-ins ahead of today's welterweight championship boxing bout. John Locher / AP
Manny Pacquiao, left, and Adrien Broner, right, during weigh-ins ahead of today's welterweight championship boxing bout. John Locher / AP

Whether you know him as Pac-Man, the National Fist or senator Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, there is no escaping the legend of Manny Pacquiao.

His fight in Las Vegas this weekend is his first since he turned 40 years old and the 60th since he turned professional two decades ago.

His first bout, as a 16-year-old in Manila, earned him $20. Yet the man who went on to become the world’s second highest-earning athlete in 2015 is expected to walk away from the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a cheque closer to $20 million.

But there is so much more to Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story than the accumulation of wealth.

For his army of devoted fans of all nationalities around the world – and nowhere more so than in the UAE, where so many of his compatriots work – Pacquiao is nothing less than a symbol of hope.

All are familiar with the story of how the 14-year-old Pacquiao stowed away on a boat bound for Manila, determined to pursue his dream of becoming a boxer and fighting to free his family from abject poverty. In a very real sense, this is a tale that mirrors the aspirations of the millions of Filipinos who travel abroad to find work and send money and hope to their families back home.

There are more than two million Filipinos working around the world, with about 700,000 in the UAE alone. To each of them, whether domestic workers, gardeners, cleaners, nurses or sailors, Pacquiao is a hero whose story validates their own determination to work hard to help their long-distance families.

Whatever the outcome of the fight, Pacquiao, the only man ever to hold boxing titles in eight different weight categories, clearly has nothing left to prove.

The fact he is determined to go on proving it for the sake of his loyal fans says much about him.

Pacquiao, a man who achieved his aim, subsequently devoted himself to public service and donated more than a third of his career earnings to charity, stands as the very embodiment of upstanding, moral values.

Even those who do not follow boxing cannot help but be inspired by an icon whose humility and decency transcend the world of sport.

Updated: January 19, 2019 08:48 PM

SHARE

SHARE