Pacquiao’s decisions symptomatic of his leadership
Cuban Yordenis Ugas defeated Senator Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous decision a few weeks ago, but that loss, the slugfest fans know, is a small footnote in world boxing narrative. And what is the main substance of the world boxing narrative? It’s this: Pacquiao’s erstwhile archrival, Floyd Mayweather Jr., was a five-division world champion and compared with him, Manny is the first, the one and only eight-division world champion, a fact that makes him three divisions ahead of Floyd.
Since 1995, every time Manny brought home a new belt as a professional boxer, there, inside the Office of the President, as well as the inner chamber of the Senate and the House of Representatives, officials were kept busy designing and managing events, and creating honors to give credit to the man who has made every Filipino proud.
Dr. PACQUIAO. I know only of two contemporary professional sluggers who were conferred a doctorate honoris causa. One is British professional boxer Amir Khan and the other is Pacquiao. In 2009, Pacquiao received from the Southwestern University (SWU) the “Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities” in recognition not only of his extraordinary feat in the world stage, but also of his humanitarian work and people development efforts. Thereafter, universities across the archipelago would address him as Dr. Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao Sr.
COMMODORE PACQUIAO. The military sector couldn’t be outdone. At Camp Aguinaldo, Lieutenants, Captains, and Majors of the Army would give him a snappy salute of respect. Why? Because, the Philippine Army (PA) bestowed upon him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the PA Reserve Force, a first for a boxing champion. In 2017, he was a full Colonel. During the summit of his boxing career, was Manny the equivalent of ten battalion commanders who motivate the foot soldiers on the ground? Yes, and ten times more! We recall that the boxing icon was every Filipino’s mascot and the Philippines’ Ambassador of Good Will to the world par excellence.
Not to be outdone, on December 17, 2014, on Manny’s 36th birthday, the Philippine Coast Guard did something more sensational when they conferred on him the title of Commodore, which is equivalent to a one-star general in the Army.
DATU PACQUIAO. A famous English singer and a Scottish actor were officially knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and henceforth; in formal occasions, they are addressed as Sir Elton John and Sir Sean Connery. In the same token, local officials, particularly in the Mindanao regions, didn’t mind addressing our Filipino champion Datu Pacquiao, for in 2009 President Macapagal-Arroyo conferred upon him the distinguished “Order of Sikatuna” with the rank of Datu (Grand Cross), a distinction usually bestowed upon foreign diplomats and heads of state.
In boxing, at 12, he began working harder than the rest and earned 8-division-world titles, which gave Pacquiao a unique status in the Filipino society and a most distinct place in boxing annals. Manny is the only slugger in the entire universe to achieve such a feat, which made Floyd so vexed that every muscle of his body quivered. But, a friendly reminder, Pacquiao’s story in politics is a different one.
In boxing, those achievements made Manny Pacquiao a legend, one-of-a-kind, a living legend, a marvel like the one who “flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee.” The world of politics is different. Pacquiao’s personal persistence, almost an obsession, to prove he’s still a world champion at 42, his indecision to retire or not to retire at 42, his failure to discern the wisdom of stopping when you’re in the North and not in the South, and his inability to know the difference between tenacious bravery and reckless imprudence speak of the kind of political leadership he assumed (as Congressman and Senator) and will assume.
Although the world of boxing and that of politics are poles apart, discernment and the kind of judgement calls he makes are the same tools that can make and break a decision maker like Pacquiao and the Motherland he loves to serve.
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano (facebook.com/josemario.maximiano) is the author of MCMLXXII: 500-Taong Kristiyano, Volume Two (Claretian, 2021), Ethics and Social Responsibility in Mass Communication (Anvil, 2007) and Spiritual Man: Christian Anthropology (St. Paul’s, 1995).