Mercatornet, a website that is well worth exploring as it deals with current events and ethical issues from a point of view that is very much that of the orthodox teaching of the Church, though it isn't a Church site, has an interesting article about this boxing phenomenon. Among other things, it highlights popular religiosity in the Philippines and the open way in which many Filipinos express their faith and piety.
I'm not a supporter of professional boxing but it is a fact of life.
This article is by Zen Udani.
The Filipino whose fists stop wars
"Don't tell God you have a big problem. Tell your problem you have a big God,” champ tells fans.The boxing world is in shock after the legendary Mexican Oscar de la Hoya was sent into retirement by Filipino Manny Pacquiao on December 6 in Las Vegas.
Manny Pacquiao is undoubtedly the Philippines’ most popular sports icon. He’s a simple guy of extraordinary grit. Glorious in his bouts, he remains humble with his feet firmly planted on the ground. In his most recent match, which kept millions of Filipinos all over the world glued to their radios or TV screens, he emerged as the winner against the much touted “golden boy” Oscar de la Joya in an eight-round TKO decision.
The good-natured Pacquiao shows his mettle even inside the ring. Recah Trinidad, a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnist, wrote: “How Pacquiao lent boxing a warm human touch was no coincidence. In fact, Pacquiao would later bare that he often took pity on the helpless De La Hoya. After cornering and shaking up De La Hoya, Pacquiao would often stall in his offensive. Of course, this was not out of a sudden attack of compassion and humility.”
Pacquiao’s matches are surely a diversion to many people, not just Filipinos. His bouts relieve the stress of a faltering economy and provide national entertainment on a humdrum weekend. They have even led to truces among warring camps and a drop in crime rate, even as rebels and thieves are kept off the streets to catch a glimpse of his exciting matches. Apparently Eid Kabalu, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front civil-military affairs chief, has been known to say, “If Manny fights every day, guns will always be silent.”
The 29-year-old Pacquiao is an interesting character. In the tough world of boxing, you see this man publicly acknowledging that among his weapons are absolute faith in God and prayer. He hangs a rosary around his neck just before a match, and he’s not shy about it. As soon as he steps into the boxing ring, he kneels in deep prayer in one corner. Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers away in General Santos City, he’s supported by a pious mother who spends hours praying before an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Santo Nino (Holy Child Jesus) for the success of her son. After each victorious bout, an assistant immediately hops into the ring to hang once more the same holy rosary around Manny’s neck.
Returning to the Philippines after his victorious dream match, he went to the popular Black Nazarene Church in Manila. In a blog posted by Izah Morales in the PDI, she recalled: “After priest gave his final blessings, Pacquiao was asked to give a message to the people. During his message, Pacquiao thanked the people and attributed his success to God. He talked about the criticisms he got from some sportswriters before his bout with Oscar de la Hoya. But he said he did not lose hope as he kept his faith in God.
“Pacquiao told the crowd, ‘Don't tell God that [you] have a big problem. [B]ut tell your problem [that you] have a big God.’”
It said that a boxer’s motto is “It’s better to give than to receive.” But Pacquaio goes beyond that quip. It was reported that before his “dream match” with de la Joya, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for tickets to be distributed among his friends and supporters. For him, it was a way of giving back. Some labeled it as superstition. But Pacquiao has that penchant for sharing his blessings with others. At the end of his match he was quoted saying, “I’m just happy that I made a lot of people happy.”
Pacquiao was tempted to venture into politics last year when he ran for a seat in Congress. He was soundly defeated, much to the delight of his fans, who wanted him to stay in the ring.
A recent PDI editorial warned Pacquiao against pursuing further political ambitions: “Pacquiao's achievements have been fully his own, as far as boxing is concerned. His becoming a sports hero has led not only to riches, but also has won him the incomparable affections of an entire nation. That success and that affection are his because of how he unites a nation otherwise divided and discouraged by politics.
“No one can doubt that Pacquiao is looking for a career that will not just give meaning to his life after boxing, but which will also allow him to help others as so many have helped him rise from rags to riches through sports. The question is not whether he can or should try to be a force for public good, but whether the public good is served by his entering politics.
“His dogged determination, his dedication to his sport, his discipline and his ability to improve himself, all the while maintaining a sunny disposition and picking no quarrels with people outside the boxing ring, suggest to us that the greatest good for the greatest number lies in Pacquiao staying out of the political arena. He is a political force by sheer force of being who he is-the man who unites-and staying that way.”
The good-tempered, level-headed Pacquiao is no Mike Tyson. He is unlikely to end up like many other boxers: broke, cheated, disgraced or punch-drunk. But he should stay out of politics. The punches thrown in political shadow boxing are more vicious than any he will ever face in the ring.
Zen Udani is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Macau.