FIRING LINE: Not so hot for Pacquiao’s politics

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The web has been shaken up once again by Manny Pacquiao, the senator and the boxer. I say it in such a way like it’s two different people I’m talking about; because, in many ways, they are absolutely separate and distinct personas.

News about his decision to climb up the ring on Aug. 21, 2021 for a bout to unify three of the four major welter belts against arguably the current best and strongest champion in the division has the world abuzz of his greatness in the all-time sphere of boxing.

On the other hand, his brushes with the bigwigs within the PDP-Laban party and the Senate are earning him much criticism, exposing many of his political vulnerabilities – one year ahead of an election people around him love to think is his vehicle to the presidency.

I have to admit that for years, I’d always put my money against Pacquiao with betting buddies in the office throughout his meteoric rise to boxing superstardom. Not that I didn’t like him; I knew he was great, but doing so provided more excitement as we watched the fight on TV. It was a win-win situation for me: If he won – I’d have celebrated with the rest; if he lost, at least I had a free sumptuous dinner to lick my sorrow away.

The consequence of his stellar boxing career was just that for me, plus national pride, of course, that lasted us months of drunken storytelling till his next exciting fight. I wish I could say the same thing about his political ambitions.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not doubt his intentions for the country. I’d be among the last to question his heart. And in a democracy, it is his right – as much as it is any of our next-door neighbor’s right – to run for president. I’m sure many people will say that is enough, but not me.

I hope Pacquiao realizes that his infighting within the ruling party in which he is the acting president and the talking down of his proposed bill for a combat sports commission by his peers in the Senate should drop him the hint that next year’s presidential race might be a weight class way beyond his political punching power.

Since he has signed a contract to fight a top 5 pound-for-pound boxer in Errol Spence Jr., Pacquiao should focus all of himself on this prizefight. After all, he is 42 years old – a granddad in the sport, if you will – against a hungry beast of a welterweight who could easily hang in with the junior middleweights in his prime – 11 years Pacquiao’s junior.

I’m just afraid that if he keeps his eye on the presidency and all the dirty politics that go with such ambition, Spence might just snatch every bit of Pacquiao’s greatness in the ring on fight night and hurt him dangerously or permanently. Forget the presidency, Manny.

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