x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rough diamond Pacquiao is an international treasure

2008 review: About an hour after Manny Pacquiao beat Oscar De La Hoya, his trainer Freddie Roach had to admit exactly what had just happened at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Manny Pacquiao's win over Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand Garden Arena earlier this month was one of the many memorable moments in 2008.
Manny Pacquiao's win over Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand Garden Arena earlier this month was one of the many memorable moments in 2008.

LAS VEGAS // About an hour after Manny Pacquiao had not only beat but probably retired Oscar De La Hoya, his trainer and close friend Freddie Roach had to admit exactly what had just happened at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. "Our dream came true," Roach said on Dec 6. Their dream was De La Hoya's nightmare - a one-sided, eight-round beating in which the six-time world champion was forced to quit on his stool before something worse than what Pacquiao had already done to him happened.

Around 5am the following Sunday morning, Pacquiao was seen doing what any one would be doing after the kind of night he'd just had in Vegas. He was shaking hands and having his picture taken. Pacquiao hit the jackpot in the city of jackpots five hours earlier by hitting De La Hoya in the face so many times boxing's Golden Boy slowly became boxing's Swollen Boy. By the time he made the decision to retire on his stool, De La Hoya must have thought he was surrounded.

"I felt I'd know after the first round how it was going to go," Roach said. "I did. Oscar was shot." Oscar also took a lot of shots, being drilled according to CompuBox statistics by a remarkable 59 per cent of the 333 power punches (non-jabs) thrown by Pacquiao. More telling was that in the final three rounds Pacquiao outlanded De La Hoya 97 to 21, a nearly five-to-one ratio that ended any debate over who else might be considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world other than the tiny Filipino with the flying fists and fast feet. "I knew right away I could win," Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) said. "I controlled the fight. I was connecting with everything."

Pacquiao is now sated. He not only is universally considered the best fighter on the planet but is an icon in the Phillipines, where his popularity and his generosity have made him so much more than a successful athlete or a celebrity. "We consider him an international treasure," said Jose Atienza Jr, the secretary of environment and natural resources in the Phillipines. Honour and millions of dollars as well, US$11million (Dh40.4m) of which were won for the fight with De La Hoya.

What Pacquiao will do next in boxing is unclear. He may continue to fight at 147llb, as he did against De La Hoya, or he may return to the familiar weights like either 135 (where he holds the WBC lightweight title) or somewhere in between for the chance to face someone like the junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton or rival lightweight title- holder Juan Manuel Marquez. But one thing is sure. He'll give away a large portion of his earnings to people who stand in front of his home in rags, reminding him of what his own life once was.

"In the next five years he'll run out of money another five times," his promoter Bob Arum said. "He'll run out of every cent he made on this fight. It's a generosity that comes from living in a cardboard shack when you're growing up. Someone like that, if he has a heart at all, will feel for those less fortunate and he does. I've never seen anyone like him anywhere." Pacquiao has become an icon who has never forgotten who he was nor mistaken athletic success for more than it is. "In my country there are a lot of people with no jobs. I'm fighting because I can help my family financially and I'm happy to bring a lot of honour to my country."

Pacquiao has given them that, and not just because of what he's done in the ring. Not by a long shot. rborges@thenational.ae