Friday, March 17, 2006

The difference is Manny's heart

More than the power, the conditioning and the skills, the size of his heart is what makes Manny Pacquiao the champion that he is.

No fighter has more guts, courage and determination than the 5'6", 27-year-old southpaw from General Santos City. His spirit is what propels him to victory against all odds.

Pacquiao's life has been a constant struggle. From humble beginnings, he battled his way to the top. He never blinked in the face of adversity. He never backed down from any challenge.

Today, Pacquiao is known as the "People's Champion." He is a legend in his own time. There is no feistier fighter in the lighter weight divisions and no more exciting dervish in the ring.

In his home country, he is a hero - a man who has given national pride a new meaning through his exploits as a fighter. Abroad, he is a phenomenon from a Third World country, someone who has captured the imagination of boxing fans regardless of ethnic origins with his irrepressible will to win, his charm and his derring-do.

"When I fight I know I'm fighting not just for myself and my family but for all Filipinos. There is a lot of pressure on me to win. But it's a reality I have to face. I will always give my best because I'm fighting for my country," he said.

Pacquiao was born in Kibawe, a small Bukidnon town, the second of four children. His mother Dionisia of Tampakan, South Cotabato, had two children, Lisa and Domingo, from a previous relationship. His father Rosalio is from Pinamungajan, Cebu.

Pacquiao grew up in a vegetable farm in the mountains overlooking General Santos City with sister Sidra and two younger brothers Bobby and Rogelio. He finished up to Grade 6 at the Labangal Elementary School, then made a living as a bakery boy while fighting on the side when his father left home, never to return. Pacquiao fended for himself and became preoccupied doing what he did best - taking on all comers in fistfights.

Boxing was Pacquiao's ticket out of poverty, as it was for townmate Rolando Navarrete, who once reigned as the world junior lightweight titleholder. He racked up a 60-4 record as an amateur and caught the eye of local promoters Rey Golingan and Fabian Javier. Golingan said Pacquiao was not extraordinarily skilled as an amateur but showed a lot of spunk. He was called Kid Kulafu by fans.

In 1994, a call was made by Malabon businessman Polding Correa to General Santos City "talent scout" Yolanda Pareon, whose two sons were fighters. Correa asked Parcon to send to Manila a bunch of young and promising fighters and promised to make champions out of those with potential.

So in a slow boat to Manila rode Pacquiao and nine other aspiring, wide-eyed fighters with visions of fame and fortune in the big city.

Pacquiao landed in Port Area with not even a centavo in his pockets.


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By Joaquin M. Henson
People Asia Magazine 03/16/2006

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