Boxer Manny Pacquiao, the only man ever to hold eight division championships, is currently training for a November 23 fight against Brandon Rios in Macau. Pacquiao also holds the title of congressman in the Philippines, a position to which he was elected in 2010. This week the Wall Street Journal‘s Jason Gay wrote about Pacquiao’s dual role following the deadly typhoon that hit his country late last week. Gay spoke with Bill Littlefield.
BL: Give us a sense of Manny Pacquiao’s popularity in the Phillipines.
JG: It’s difficult to find a comparable [athlete] in the United States. We’ve had athletes who’ve become politicians, but never simultaneously at the apex of their career. And that’s exactly where Manny Pacquiao was when he was elected congressman in the Philippines. He represents the Sarangani province of the country in the southern area of the Philippines and it’s kind of a remarkable double life that he has, sitting in congress representing this district, province rather, and of course one of the great pound-for-pound fighters of his generation.
BL: Pacquiao is currently in the Philippines, though not in the part of the country most devastated by the storm, and you write that he was torn by events there. Did you have a sense talking to his trainer Freddie Roach that Pacquiao had considered leaving his training camp to be with some of the people in the Philippines who have lost everything?
JG: Well absolutely. I got the sense that Freddie had to do everything but bolt the doors shut to keep him from going northward to the central part of the Philippines where the devastation occurred. You know this is a sort of very, very difficult position for Pacquiao where he is really split between these two worlds that he occupies. And then of course this unbelievable devastation in the Philippines and his just natural compulsion to want to be there at the scene to provide comfort and aid.
BL: Pacquiao may be able to help out in the Philippines in all sorts of ways because of his status there, as you’ve suggested. He’s also a very wealthy man. He may be able to make an impact in terms of the money.
JG: Yeah you know, I don’t know if he’s made a financial contribution on his own yet, but I imagine he would. There are all sorts of lists out that annually rank most highly compensated athletes and Pacquiao is usually in the top five worldwide. I would expect that would be coming, but also he’s dedicated this fight to people of the Philippines in the wake of this disaster. Certainly his profile lends some significance to it as well.
BL: Typhoons have interrupted Pacquiao’s training camps before other bouts, but clearly the devastation from this storm is on a completely different scale.
JG: That’s right. I believe once in 2010 and twice in 2009 Pacquiao’s training camps have been disrupted by typhoons, but it is sort of a way of life. They’ve dealt with mudslides, and interruptions, and some deaths, and things like that in the neighborhoods where he was training. He was training for this fight in General Santos City which is right next to the province he represents. And he did not have any sort of disruption. There was no sort of weather interruption there, but of course like anybody in the Philippines, he was quite concerned about what was happening elsewhere and wanted to get to it.