“This man knows right from wrong.”
Even before Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed his certificate of candidacy for the presidency in the May 2022 general elections, skeptics and trolls had a field day denigrating his qualifications to run for the highest elective position.
We’ve heard people say that he was “only a boxer” who should stay in his proper place. And what’s his proper place? They are saying that he does not deserve to be president but he most certainly can help aspiring boxers and other athletes to hone their craft by setting up a training camp. Or he could set up a foundation devoted to helping poor Filipinos uplift their quality of life through skills training. Or perhaps he could become a global spokesman for, say, combating climate change, especially since the country is vulnerable to typhoons and flooding that not only kill Filipinos but leave them even poorer than before.
But Pacquiao is not “only a boxer” as he is now considered one of the best fighters in the history of the sport, having won world titles in eight weight divisions and in the process brought honor and prestige to the country.
Boxing analysts have actually identified five major fighting styles. The pressure fighter throws a swarm of punches in multiple combinations to overwhelm foes. The out-boxer stays on the outside, using reach as a weapon and keeping opponents at bay with crafty technique. The slugger pays very little attention to strategy and dominates his opponent with his strength and brute force. The counter puncher is known for surgical precision and delivers damaging and accurate counter shots. The boxer-puncher combines the best of all worlds into a single style and can effortlessly switch between being a pressure fighter to a methodical out-boxer waiting for an opening to close the gap.
As a professional prize-fighter, Pacquiao, categorized mainly as a pressure fighter, has fought fighters with different styles and won most of them. His style is said to require tremendous cardiovascular endurance and supreme conditioning. But he could easily adapt to his opponent’s distinct style and thus carved his own identity in the highly competitive sport.
But it’s not just what he did in the boxing ring that made him excel in the sport. It’s his iron discipline and hard work during training and conditioning before every match that allowed him to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
It’s the same grit or indomitable courage and toughness amid a life of poverty and deprivation that Pacquiao brings to his presidential bid.
As a boxer, Pacquiao had to study each and every opponent and devise the best strategy and tactics to defeat him. And he had to listen intently to what his coaches and trainers had to say in order for him to win over his opponents.
If elected president, Pacquiao must seriously study the nation’s problems and to devise the best strategy and tactics to overcome these problems. He has to consult the people on issues that affect them and listen to sound advice from advisers who should be selected from among the best and the brightest in their fields.
He was born into poverty and knows how it is to live with next to nothing until he entered professional boxing. In the process, he has earned billions from fight purses and from endorsements. His rags-to- riches story has no doubt inspired others to follow his footsteps with lessons learned from him.
Pacquiao has brought honor and prestige to the country with his ring prowess. He is admired even by other sports stars, as well as by world leaders. He is an international sports celebrity who has given away tons of his earnings to charity and humanitarian causes.
If we’re to adopt the criteria used by the opposition to choose their standard bearer, Pacquiao has integrity; he is not corrupt.
He has a grand vision for the country: to fight poverty and corruption. He knows that corruption not only hurts the poor the most but also gnaws at the moral fiber of the whole of society.
He is a patriot. He loves his country and is proud of his roots.
He is winnable. He has a wide following because of his rise from poverty to fame and fortune, yet has retained his humility.
He is willing to learn. He may not have much formal education in his early years but he has strived to catch up with academic studies.
He has vowed to uphold human rights and basic freedoms, including freedom of the press, as well as the rule of law and due process in a democracy, values that we Filipinos hold dear and are willing to fight for.
And perhaps what’s most important, he knows what is wrong and what is right.
But he also has to overcome challenges. If elected, he should carefully choose those who will be in his Cabinet. He should also resist the urge to appoint political supporters, relatives, friends, and classmates to positions of power and influence without the required competence, integrity and track record in good governance.
The boxing world, as we have argued, is no different from the political culture. At the intersection of both is Pacquiao, the only world boxing champion, if I’m not mistaken, to aspire for the presidency of any country.