, , ,

“Who do you think will win?”

“Mayweather,” I say nonchalantly. “He’s too big and too arrogant.”

“Why are you so doubtful of Pacquiao? Your bias is clouding your optimism.”

“I want Pacquiao to win. I really do. I may not like him but it would be great to see him victorious. But optimism is as misleading as bias. When you have someone taking on an unbeaten warrior, the odds are stacked against you.”

I’ve never been a fan of Pacquiao. Edit: I’ve never been a fan of boxing. I do not have any appreciation for the sport – or now, the spectacle: the brutal violence, the ringside audience, the betting and gambling, blunt injuries to the eyes, swollen faces in press conferences. There is elegance in tennis, joyful choreography in football, grace in basketball – but boxing? There must be an art form in it but my eyes – my biases – must be preventing me from appreciating the swiftness of a punch, the quick footwork inside the ring, the gliding and embracing, the knockouts.

I do know the tremendous amount of training and discipline it takes to be a top boxer. I recognize the passion behind the athlete. But the sport is simply too violent for my eyes – an almost modern gladiatorial combat that indulges the beast in every man. You can only imagine how much I cringe when I get a glimpse of UFC.

And what about Pacquiao – what is it that makes me doubt him, not like him?

Floyd Mayweather has always been about one thing: a boxer. He breathes boxing, he lives for boxing, he is insufferable because of boxing. This purity of life is something you cannot find in Manny Pacquiao. After all, Pacman is also a singer, actor, and congressman, with stints as a basketball player too. I’ve always found this celebrity demeanour off-putting mostly because it seems when Pacquiao does venture into new roles, it never has the rectitude of intention. The results of such endeavors rarely yield impressive results too. Just ask Michael Jordan for perspective. At the end of day, you compromise one thing for the sake of another.

I don’t buy Pacquiao’s place in the House of Representatives as an effort to “help more people.” To me, it’s nothing but a result of bad advice from yes-people surrounding him, or supporters dexterously exerting their political clout in their celebrity puppet (looking at Chavit Singson now). The same goes with his showbiz enterprises – it’s simply milking the cash cow.

Surely Mayweather has his own slew of endorsements; his own streaks of cashing it in, but you’re always certain he is, at the end of the day, a boxer – very arrogant one I must add. With Pacquiao, the lack of unity of life confuses me. How can a congressman continue to be boxing, or be involved in a sport that is accessorized by a certain amount of vanity and vice? I carry the same sentiment towards actor-politicians who continue working on film or television projects while in public office. It simply isn’t proper.

And yet the moment Pacquiao enters the ring, all his faults are forgotten. His trapo colleagues in congress travelling with him, and gambling their lives away, perhaps with public funds too (as nothing is impossible or unethical for our government), are just as easily forgotten – disguised in the crowd of dealers and schemers, big-time players ready to bet on two men like they’re cocks. And why would anyone remember it when Filipinos too are betting to the edge of their pockets. Pacquiao’s run-ins with tax bureaus simply disappear in thin air as well while his personal affairs, which frankly should stay personal, are squelched by the electric air from the buzz of Filipino’s looking for him to win that coveted belt.

Under the light of the boxing ring, Pacquiao becomes a hero, an icon through whom Filipinos can vicariously fight their own battles. He becomes a “real representative” of the Filipino dream to rise from the ashes of obscurity and poverty, to emerge from almost every fight victorious; to wield the kind of power so often denied to the ordinary man. We are a nation of sentimental men and women and Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story is the perfect recipe to stir our emotional wells for an outpour of patriotism, no matter how fetishized or misguided. Isn’t that why we have Kid Kulafu?

Maybe my frustration with Pacquiao is simply my frustration over Filipinos, over how forgetful we are, and how quick we forgive the sins causing the ills of our society, so we can momentarily and superficially show love for the country, especially when there isn’t much to love (unless you can see past the façade). And maybe it’s also my frustration with how us a nation, we are the kind of people to accept the ends, no matter the means, because it benefits us, consoles us, makes us proud.

I wish Pacquiao the best. Win or lose, I’m sure he would make a lot of people proud. I just hope that one day, our society would learn to stop making excuses for the disconnect between action and intention; to see things as they truly are, and not just disregard reality or suspend their doubts, for the sake of a fleeting victory.