x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Pacquiao: truly a class act

Manny Pacquiao, the pride of the Philippines, is boxing's beacon of hope - and an example to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Manny Pacquiao, right, looks on as Laurence Cole, the referee, checks Antonio Margarito after Pacquiao wanted the fight stopped.
Manny Pacquiao, right, looks on as Laurence Cole, the referee, checks Antonio Margarito after Pacquiao wanted the fight stopped.
In the darkness that shrouds the dingy sport of boxing, there stands a beacon of light.

His name is Manny Pacquiao. Inside the ring, he pleads with the referee to end the fight early so he will not pummel his opponent into next year, preferring to stop at next week. This happened on Saturday in "Pac-Man's" beatdown of Antonio Margarito in Dallas.

Outside the ring, as a congressman in his native Phillippines, he rallies constituents and peers to support construction of a hospital to serve children. He donates substantial sums of his own money for the needy, homeless and illiterate.

These words are typed with great hesitancy. Who knows? Doors to the closet that contains Pacquiao's past may swing open one day and all sorts of skeletons spill out. After all, this is boxing, which draws the desperate, the brutish and the self-absorbed, often from society's fringes.

Take Margarito. Prior to squaring off with Shane Mosley last year, a plaster-like substance was detected underneath the gauze and tape wrapped on his hands.

Blows from Margarito, who ultimately lost his licence for a year, could have put Mosley down for a million count.

Last week brought conjecture that maybe Margarito has been punching himself with loaded gloves.

Surfers of the internet see videos daily that should be titled "I Am An Idiot, And Here Is Proof." In Margarito's, he mocked Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who copes with Parkinson's disease , mimicking the symptoms by shaking his arms and contorting his face.

At least Margarito has the sense to stop getting all physical after the ding-ding-ding of the final bell.

Where to begin with Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquaio's next foe - or so the fight universe hopes.

The latest: Mayweather confronted his ex-girlfriend with her new beau and took offence, resulting in charges of felony coercion, grand larceny and robbery - with misdemeanour domestic battery and harassment thrown in for good measure.

Witnessing the confrontation were Mayweather's two sons. For now, he is legally prohibited from seeing them.

The incident followed, by barely a week, the release of a Mayweather video in which he spews racist and homophobic remarks about Pacquaio. (See "I Am An Idiot ...", above)

I'm not sure which is more impressive, Mayweather's ring record (41-0, with 25 knockouts) or arrest record.

The latter includes a guilty plea to domestic violence, a fine and suspended sentence for conviction of misdemeanour battery against two women in a nightclub, a no-contest please to misdemeanour assault for kicking a bouncer and a finding of innocence at trial because the girlfriend retracted her assault allegations on the witness stand.

If Mayweather, Pacquiao's lone pugilistic peer, does not wind up in prison - the pending charges could bring up to 34 years - a bout for the ages looms. Speculation on the potential purse centres on an unprecedented US$80 million (Dh293.8m).

This being boxing, the fans probably will not get what they want. Mayweather has danced around the negotiating table with some outrageous demands of Pacquiao: providing periodic urine and blood samples for testing in the lead-up to the fight.

Whether his suspicions are legitimate or fabricated is unclear. No internet video has surfaced of Pac-Man taunting Mayweather while ingesting unknown substances.

Conspiracy theorists say the Mayweather camp is waiting for the gentleman representing the Filipino province of Sarangani to immerse himself in politics, then lure him between the ropes after priorities have been reshuffled.

If nothing else, a meeting of the minds - and then of the bodies - would spawn a fight unlikely to end as dreadfully as Pacquiao-Margarito.

In a sport that too often misplaces its sense of decency, the Mexican absorbed such a fusillade of blows - 719, by one credible count - during the 12 rounds that a compassionate Pacquiao asked the ref to call a halt early in the 11th round. Request denied.

Margarito's manager could have mercifully thrown in the towel but chose not to, saying his fighter's heritage would not allow it. "It probably ruined his career by not stopping the fight," Roach said.

If boxing is on the road to ruin - does it not always seem that way? - Manny Pacquiao will not be at the wheel. He has triumphed in eight weight classes, and more importantly, he has triumphed with class. He gives the sport a puncher's chance to remain relevant.