By Leandro DD Coronel
For the first time ever, many Filipinos reacted with joy as Australian champion Jeff Horn bullied Manny Pacquiao to win their title fight in Brisbane last Sunday.
That was quite unprecedented, the celebration over our boxing hero’s defeat. That has to do with Pacquiao’s reactionary political stance and fundamentalist religious and moral stands that are archaic in this age.
But I’m getting ahead of the story. To boxing first.
Brisbane native Horn’s strategy in his battle with the legendary Pacquiao was to use aggression all the way. He used his bulk and splendid physique, with legs of a rugby player, to dominate Pacquiao from Round 1 to Round 12, except for round 9 where the Pacquiao we’re all used to showed up. Horn crowded the usually speedy Pacquiao, preventing the latter from unleashing his vaunted lethal combinations.
Pacquiao failed to counteract Horn’s do-or-die attacks and paid the price for it. Horn’s naturally stocky build proved too strong for Pacquiao. Where the Filipino ring hero succeeded against the likes of bigger foes like Antonio Margarito, Oscar dela Hoya, and Miguel Cotto, he couldn’t make headway with the Aussie. Horn just kept advancing, disallowing the Filipino to go on the offensive.
Pacquiao must have left at home in the Philippines his lightning-fast fists and his dazzling footwork. Those and his unsurpassed stamina were key to his success in the past. Or, could it be that age has stolen those enviable skills away?
My layman’s inexpert score gave the victory to Horn, 115-112, even after I gave Pacquiao a 10-8 in the ninth round.
Pacquiao and many Filipinos are disappointed, with many claiming Pacquiao won. Fans complained about Horn head-butting and elbowing Pacquiao. But that was a boxing match, not the finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” The head butts were ruled accidental, not intentional. But a loss is always heartbreaking and sometimes hard to accept.
Now, to the surprising celebratory reaction of fans to Pacquiao’s defeat.
The great Filipino champion has already seen retirement in the horizon and has parlayed his fame as his ticket to national politics. To the chagrin of many of his boxing fans, the first-time senator has allied himself with traditional politicians instead of blazing a trail to become a champion of the masses.
Having come from the nadir of poverty to a magical world of riches, he seems to prefer to situate himself in the abyss of trapo politics, happily endorsing summary killings of drug suspects, disapproving of untraditional sexual orientations, and unabashedly hob-nobbing with reactionary co-members of the Senate.
I have implored with someone close to Pacquiao to revisit his political and philosophical leanings and go back to his roots as a member of the downtrodden and be a true champion of the poor and underprivileged. That takes a lot of effort over just going along with the dominant political bloc, but that in the end will bring him more glory, widespread approval, and personal satisfaction.
Besides pleading with Pacquiao to align himself with the forgotten masses and be their voice, I will not advise him what to do with his boxing career at this point. That is not my place, rather it’s his alone to decide in consultation with his professional advisers and close associates, including his wife and mother.
For now, Pacquiao is at a crossroads in his life. His boxing prowess is on the wane while politics beckons. If he decides correctly, unanimous popular acclaim awaits him, making his place in history secure. But if he chooses to be content with being friends with political forces that are poor-unfriendly, his legacy will be tainted forever. More and more Filipinos will applaud his failures, in and out of the boxing ring.
Tantrum Ergo. A reader’s comment about my column, “Did Sackur toy with Trillanes on ‘Hardtalk’?” (6/29/17) said I was being an “AC/DC” commentator. “AC/DC” is a play on the alternating current and direct current of electricity, meaning that a commentator attacks (AC) and then extorts money or favors from the one(s) attacked in exchange for a positive succeeding commentary (DC). All I can say is obviously the reader doesn’t know me. I don’t know any politicians, I don’t write for or against anyone, I write to be truthful and fair. Philosophically I’m a liberal but my only ideology is the truth.
The reader also said what I wrote was a figment of my imagination. Trillanes’ interview was straightforward, he answered HardTalk host Sackur’s questions well and with confidence. What was there to imagine? People will say anything to discredit commentary that collides with their partisan interests.
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