Son of a box!

Manny finesses PacMan, finishes Golden Boy


No match.

That’s what they said before the ‘Dream Match’ between Filipino Manny ‘PacMan’ Pacquiao and Mexican-American Oscar ‘Golden Boy’ De La Hoya on 6 December at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the land of Barack Obama. Golden Boy was much taller and much bigger and much better; PacMan was going to lose in an ignominious, humiliating manner. Stop him!

Filipino sportswriter Al Mendoza himself said just before the fight (quoted by Sophia Dedace, 7 December, gmanews.tv) (my translation from the Manila lingua franca):

Ang pitaka ko, naka’y De La Hoya. Idol natin talaga, pero this time, ang pinipili kong manalo ay si De La Hoya. Hindi ka-liga ni Pacquiao si De La Hoya.’ ‘My wallet is with De La Hoya. Pacquiao is really my idol, but this time, I’m picking on De La Hoya to win. Pacquiao is not in the same league as De La Hoya.’

Horrors! De La Hoya was annihilated instead. Then Al Mendoza said Golden Boy did that on purpose. ‘If Pacquiao went into that fight prepared to win, De La Hoya went in prepared to lose’ (ANN, author not named, 8 December, abs-cbnnews.com). De La Hoya committed sports suicide, going into such length to disgrace himself for all the world to see on live TV? He’s not that crazy.

But I agree with Al Mendoza; PacMan is not in the same league as Golden Boy – the Golden Boy is gross, PacMan is great! I admire Al Mendoza as a sportswriter, but I didn’t know he had no respect for Manny Pacquiao. And sorry, his judgment didn’t jive with the facts.

No match.

In so many words, that’s what a Filipino boxer told me days after PacMan out-foxed Golden Boy: ‘If Pacquiao fought De La Hoya in his prime, he wouldn’t have had any chances at all.’ Or words to that effect. I said nothing; I was his guest and I didn’t want to spar a round with the man in his house, he who was also an award-winning orator in his Ateneo high school days. The boxer? Antonio Meer. You didn’t know the topnotch lawyer and great Sigma Rhoan Tony Meer was a boxer? His mother Crispina Maloles made him. As a boy, if he had been in a fight and he didn’t win, she would egg him to go back and win it this time, never mind the bruising. At the UP College of Law, before the war, he was one of the best swimmers, boxers, football and basketball players, an all-around athlete. (Of course, he may have just been compensating for his small stature – he is 5 feet tall. All that and more in Tony Meer’s book, A Lawyer’s Fate & Faith (2003, published by Antonio Malvar Meer, 500 pages.) Anyway, isn’t that what Batangueños are: Brawlers all? Until they finesse themselves. (If you can’t get hold of a copy of his big book, you can always read my Tall Tribute to Tony Meer, all 7676 words of it, if you visit ’13 Lovers,’ 13 December, scholarssoldiers.blogspot.com.)

No match? ‘No mas!’ De La Hoya said. No more!

What Tony Meer implied was that Pacquiao defeated a lesser De La Hoya, someone past the peak of his powers. Too old. I couldn’t tell him: Tony, UP to UP, your mother would not brook your explanations for losing a fight, so don’t give excuses for De La Hoya.

De La Hoya himself didn’t make excuses. He said right after the fight (Alex P Vidal, 11 December, philboxing.com): ‘Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter and he fought a great fight. He was a better man tonight and he deserves all he has accomplished in his career.’ Bow.

Dennis Guillermo said (10 December, 8countnews.com): ‘Manny Pacquiao was so good he had some delusional Filipino boxing analysts thinking De La Hoya sold the fight.’ That was a straight left.

Chris Lorfida didn’t make excuses (10 December, www.cbc.ca): ‘Not just because he proved about 80% of the boxing press (including me) very wrong by winning against the bigger man. It was the manner by which he did it that was really eye-opening.’ That was a left and a right combination.

Mike Houser said (9 December, nevadaappeal.com): Showing incredible versatility, Pacquiao was able to command the gap, darting in and out to land his quick, sharp, powerful blows and move his upper body to avoid De La Hoya’s counters.’ That was a right uppercut.

If you say PacMan was fantastic and at the same time Golden Boy was too old, you are contradicting yourself. You are not giving credit to whom credit is due. PacMan wasn't fantastic at all in defeating an old man; Golden Boy didn't lose to the man who had grown up - he lost to himself who had grown old.

Beth Celis asked (10 December, sports.inquirer.net): ‘Where does Pacquiao draw his strength?’ And David Diaz asked in wonderment a few hours after PacMan retired Golden Boy: ‘Who are you? You’re unbelievable! You’re too fast. Are you human?’

‘Now you are my idol,’ Golden Boy told PacMan right after the fight, and they hugged. And that may be a clue. If he had to go down in defeat, De La Hoya wanted nobody but the best to do it to him. Medeon Maraon said it best (9 December, philboxing.com): ‘Manny Pacquiao … Hands down, you are the world’s best boxer today. No wonder Oscar De La Hoya wanted to dance his final dance with you.’ A Grand Exit.

In the mass media and all over the world, on the David vs Goliath metaphor, there were 2 takes. ‘Pacquiao defeats Goliath,’ Fausto Narducci said (7 December, english.gazzetta.it). Pacquiao was the Goliath and not De La Hoya, Dennis Gasgonia said (7 December, abs-cbnnews.com). Poor metaphor! That double-take is informed, not inspired. Insight was David’s real weapon; it was skill that mattered, not size. So, he shot a stone with his slingshot and the deadly small missile found its mark, on the big forehead of Goliath, and the giant fell, dead. Goliath was slain with a single strike in a single round of battle. How are the mighty fallen!

In sharp contrast, De La Hoya was slain with not a single strike but 224 bone-jarring punches landing; he was struck down within not a single round but 8 brutal rounds in a battle of 12.

Mike Houser said about Manny Pacquiao: ‘He is a Filipino Bruce Lee, equal parts myth and substance.’ Now Oscar De La Hoya knows about myth and substance.

Like David’s, insight was PacMan’s real weapon. He had looked into the mirror and seen himself, clearly. He had changed himself outside, more so inside. He had been transformed by the renewing of his mind (Romans 12). Really. He won because he had trained to make himself a winner. From a brawler to a boxer, from finishing his foes to finessing himself first. From haughty to humbled. If you didn’t realize that of Pacquiao, you have only been watching him with your eyes, not listening with your ears, not feeling with your heart. Pay attention to Pacquiao sometimes.

So now PacMan shuffles on his feet, hooks with his hands, dances on his toes, bobs with his head, shifts with his body. I'll call that PacMan's Brownian Movement - it's not white, it's not black, and you never know where it's going to next.

All the while Pacquiao was thinking out of the box. De La Hoya didn’t know what to do with an enemy that was out of reach almost all the time. Son of a box!

PacMan was at his best, he knew; De La Hoya was at his best, he thought – knowing is better than thinking. Pacquiao was oozing with confidence already the day before the fight; De La Hoya was oozing out.

‘Pacquiao pawed, bobbed and darted gracefully from side to side. Confused, De La Hoya missed …’ (Recah Trinidad, 12 December, inquirer.net). ‘Experiencing a big surprise of Pacquiao’s agility and strategic movements with vicious, surgical assaults, De La Hoya felt the impact of being disarmed from using his left hook’ – in the words of Freddie Roach, ‘We took Oscar’s left hand away from him and once we did that, the fight was over’ (Granville Ampong (10 December, philboxing.com).

Still and all, ‘Oscar showed that he’s a class act, with his post-fight interview making no excuses, he gave Manny the full respect that he deserved’ (Brad Cooney, 7 December, 8countnews.com). Unlike some Filipinos you know.

Jonathan Livingston Pacman

PacMan was Jonathan Livingston Seagull that night in Las Vegas. Looking back, in fact, I can see he had already become the best seagull he could be on 18 November 2006 (19 November in Manila), when Manny Pacquiao’s Sense won over Erik Morales’ Science and gave him his ‘Grand Finale’ also in Las Vegas (see my ‘Winpower!’ in this same blog). PacMan started his Seagull journey that year, training for his 3rd fight against Morales. Ronnie Nathanielsz had the best report of the Pacquiao-Morales encounters (20 November 2006, manilastandardtoday.com):

Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao used his speed, power and courage to smash legendary Mexican Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales to the canvas three times en route to a third-round knockout victory before a sellout crowd at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

And PacMan was running a slight fever and had swollen tonsils at that time!

If you watched carefully the 19 November 2006 Pacquiao vs Morales mismatch, you would have known the result of the 6 December 2008 Pacquiao vs De La Hoya mismatch weeks before the fight.

2006, Pacquiao vs Morales: ‘Pacquiao showed his incredible speed in Round 1 as he caught Morales with a couple of rapid-fire combinations, highlighted by a vicious left uppercut and a right hook that clearly stunned Morales’ (Ronnie Nathanielsz, cited).

2007, Pacquiao vs Barrera: ‘(Round 1): Left hand lands for Pacquiao. Another left sneaks in for Pacquiao. Now a huge Manny chant starts’ (HBO, 7 October 2007, mukamo.com).

2008, Pacquiao vs De La Hoya: ‘In the first, Manny landed a straight left and right hook which got the crowd jazzed… Oscar scored with a left hook to the body, but lost the round after eating six good straight lefts. Oscar couldn’t land the jab on the slippery Pacquiao’ (Michael Woods, (6 December, thesweetscience.com).

Speed and the left hand – and that was just the beginning.

Pacquiao won against all the odds that a great many of the boxing experts – Americans and Filipinos included – threw at his body, mind and spirit. De La Hoya was a 5-time world champion; Pacquiao was what? De La Hoya was a great champion; Pacquiao was what? De La Hoya had 2 advantages, height and reach; Pacquiao had what?

Pacquiao had what Marco Antonio Barrera failed to see when in May 2006 he said, ‘Pacquiao is a one-style fighter’ (Sunnex, sunstar.com.ph). Barrera was the man PacMan had utterly defeated in November 2003. Some people fail to see greatness except when they look into the mirror, dearly.

PacMan had found Jonathan Livingston Seagull within himself.

I’m no boxing fan, but a writer who tries to look at the best of every body, including his own. And I look at Manny Pacquiao as a seagull who has been in a serious search for perfection. Don’t laugh. We should all be in that same search.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a bestselling out-of-the-box novella created by an American writer and published in 1970, dedicated ‘To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all.’

I’m reading the text I have just downloaded from herelib.ru, all text, no photos. I’ve read it before, I forgot when, but I remember having loved it, text by Richard Bach and photos by Russell Munson of a very determined gull who is bored with finding food just like the rest of the Flock and devotes much of his time to teaching himself how to fly. He learns the hard way – Don’t we all? PacMan certainly did – and becomes the best seagull he can be. He reaches a higher plane of flying where he meets only a few seagulls and, having learned about flying, he learns about living. He goes back to the Flock and shares them his insights.

You can mistake the Jonathan Livingston Seagull story as the search for freedom. It is not. What I read out of the story is the search for self and, in finding that, the search for others.

I am Jonathan Livingston Seagull; I train myself to be the best writer I can be, and then when I reach the top I realize that I am not the best I can be if I do not search for the others and share with them, perhaps teach them, what I have learned from my own journey. My journey is my own reward, but I would be richer still if I multiplied it by sharing it with others.

You are Jonathan Livingston Seagull; you have to learn more about flying, and then you can learn more about living.

Manny Pacquiao is Jonathan Livingston Seagull; he trains himself to be the best boxer he can be, and then when he reaches the top he realizes that he is not the best he can be if he does not search for others and share with them, perhaps teach them, what he has learned from his own journey.

Manny Pacquiao won because he had perfected his change to PacMan. Barack Obama won because he had perfected his change to someone Americans could believe in.

Oscar De La Hoya lost because he didn’t know he was fighting Jonathan Livingston Seagull. No match.

Oscar De La Hoya was a mismatch to Manny Pacquiao when they fought 6 December in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Pacquiao was free from his old self, De La Hoya was brave as himself. The Perfect Brawler had become the Perfect Boxer. The New Man won.

Pacquiao’s was the change we couldn’t believe in. SC says (7 December, badlefthook.com): ‘The speed was too much. The power was too much. The movement, the footwork, the game plan – everything was too much for Oscar De La Hoya.’

‘Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive’ was said of Superman; I’ll say it of PacMan. ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ was Muhammad Ali’s tactic; I’ll say the same of PacMan. And the perfect plan was executed perfectly. The flying was perfect; the landing was perfect.

Pacquiao out-fought, out-strategized, out-foxed De La Hoya. Manny eats the breakfast of champions. After all, PacMan is the first Asian to win 4 major titles in 4 different weight divisions: Flyweight in 1998 (WBC), Super Bantamweight in 2001 (IBF), Super Featherweight in 2005 (WBC), Lightweight in 2008 (WBC). After all, Pacquiao is a Roman Catholic who not only theorizes but practices his faith. The others theorize and practice politics.

‘It was speed that mattered as the Filipino icon first befuddled De La Hoya, and then battered him’ and PacMan’s speed was ‘bewildering’ (Graham Shaw, sportinglife.com).

Bewildering, yes. It was Pacquiao’s Hit & Run tactics that did De La Hoya in. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was speedier, stronger, slyer. He had attained his speed and power to the max; he had perfected his moves.

Here’s the first and the most mixed metaphor that I like about the Dream Match that didn’t come from me, from Greg Penilla (‘Friday’s calm delivered Saturday’s Perfect Storm,’ 10 December, philboxing.com):

By the 3rd round, most loyal De La Hoya fans felt embarrassed and silenced with their heads down. The fight was becoming an annihilation of their hero.

What a virtuoso performance! Manny was like a Monet using his gloves as his brush and Oscar’s face as his canvas. He has been transformed from a free-swinging power puncher into an accomplished, deliberate, intelligent and methodical boxer, thanks to surrogate father, mentor, friend and trainer, Freddie Roach. The rare diamond in the rough is surely becoming a polished gem. The scary part is that he improves with every fight. He is indeed the indisputable pound for pound king by a wide margin. Nobody even comes close.

Only after Jonathan Livingston Seagull found himself could he perfect his flying. And he was not finished. He had to seek others to share with them his knowledge and insights. He could not keep on flying solo.

Only after Manny ‘PacMan’ Pacquiao conquered himself could he perfect his boxing. And he is not finished. He has been seeking others to share with them his knowledge and insights.

Pacquiao isn’t quiet about it, and Recah Trinidad said something about it in his ‘Tale of quiet courage, heroism’ (11 December, sports.inquirer.net):

How nicely heroic it would’ve been if Pacquiao, say, descended from the plane upon returning home with that taped hand on display. You know, to serve as a badge of courage. ¶ But the Pacquiao who showed up at the major airport here for his triumphant trip home wore no trappings of a great warrior. Something in his face resembled joy. ¶ Who knows? Maybe it was Pacquiao’s way of sending across a message against boisterousness and unnecessary loudness.

Journalists keep writing and people keep talking about Manny’s political career. It’s a fact that he ran in 2007 against Darlene Antonino-Custodio for the congressional seat of General Santos City in Mindanao and lost by a huge margin. The female of the species was stronger than the male. When asked about his political plans for 2010 after his courtesy call on GMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) at Malacañang on 11 December, Pacquiao said, ‘I do not want to talk about that. We are not yet holding the elections. Maybe we should think about how we would unite and how we would improve our lives’ (gmanews.tv). Our lives? Many of us would rather tell Manny how to improve his life.

That’s what you call boldness. The sportswriters boldly ask, PacMan boldly answers. That is Jonathan Livingston Seagull speaking to the Flock. Is anyone listening? I am.

Joaquin ‘Jack’ Henson says ‘Pacquiao’s inevitable induction (to the International Boxing Hall of Fame) to signify universal recognition of boxing greatness, will be his crowning glory’ (25 December, philstar.com). No, Jack, Manny’s crowning glory isn’t that, that’s too selfish – it’s his journey of discovery of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull within himself, and then sharing the story. ‘Let anyone with ears listen!’ (Matthew 11:15 NRSV). Pacquiao’s faith is plain to hear.

Is Pacquiao pro-GMA? (I am, in case you wanted to know. I am pro-PacMan too, in case you haven’t noticed. I have always believed in Manny ever since I first heard about him; see my earliest essay on him, ‘Winpower!’ 22 November 2006, this same blog. Try also my ‘Lesson From A Loser,’ 29 May 2007, services.inquirer.net.) When Marichu Villanueva insisted on asking about his political ambition, PacMan said, ‘I think this is not the right time to talk about politics because there is no election yet. What we need right now is to focus on how we can help our Government’ (‘Politics can wait,’ 13 December, philstar.com). Help our Government? Many of us, literate and illiterate, have been led to think only GMA is Government, so why should we help?

Much of the pre-Dream Match hype was that Oscar De La Hoya was Goliath and Manny Pacquiao was David without a slingshot, armed only with foolish bravery or, which is worse (I’m mixing metaphor now), hungry for gold or green, fighting only for the purse, never mind the beating or worse. Freddie Roach said 19 out of 20 foreign journalists thought that PacMan had a big problem with Golden Boy, that he was going to lose big. During that courtesy call, GMA asked PacMan how could he have won when he was plainly the underdog, and he replied, ‘Don’t tell God you have a big problem, but tell your problem you have a big God.’

Spoken like a true Jonathan Livingston Seagull! 

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