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Manny Pacquiao faces a much tougher fight in political ring

BOXING

The world-champion boxer is a decided underdog in his bid to win a congressional seat in the Philippines.

March 10, 2010|By Lance Pugmire

Reporting from Arlington, Texas — Manny Pacquiao's financial advisor in the Philippines says the world-champion boxer has invested an estimated $5 million into winning a congressional seat in the country, an effort that is more than likely headed to a defeat.

"I'm not going to use the term longshot, but … it motivates Manny to know he's not expected to come through," Pacquiao's U.S. business advisor, Michael Koncz, said Wednesday as Pacquiao and his Saturday night opponent, Joshua Clottey, held a news conference at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Pacquiao's attempt to win the congressional seat in the Philippine province of Sarangani faces the stiff opposition of Roy Chiongbian, the son of a powerful political patriarch who helped create the country's large General Santos City. Manila News reporter Nick Giongco, in Texas for Pacquiao's bout, compared Chiongbian's name recognition in Sarangani to "Kennedy and Bush here in this country."

"I know I have to work hard and campaign," Pacquiao said. "From what I hear so far, the surveys [polls] are good."

Yet, Pacquiao's political friends and close advisors, including financial advisor Rex "Wakee" Salud, said they tried to express the reality of the political challenge to Pacquiao. The boxer has spent the past eight weeks in the U.S. training for his WBO welterweight title defense against Clottey while Chiongbian is in the Philippines preparing for the May 20 election.

"It's his decision; we don't know if he'll win" the election, Salud said. "Everybody has advised him that he's probably not going to win, but that's what he wants to do. He wants to help the poor, and he thinks there's no better way to do that than in politics."

Pacquiao has previously sought and failed to win an elected office in the Philippines. In the earlier campaign Pacquiao was hampered by poor organization, Koncz said, and the voters' desire to keep their sporting icon out of the controversial political arena.

"He's still up against it, but at least this [run] is better planned out," Koncz said. "We learned last time, without planning, you have no chance."

Pacquiao has said he wants to assist his countrymen as they struggle with weak education, health care and poverty, as he did in his youth. He has told Philippine reporters that political office is his best chance to do so. But if he's not elected, Pacquiao said, "In the eyes of God, I'm at peace. I know I've tried to help."

Pacquiao plans to return to Manila by March 22 and immediately begin an intense campaign to topple "the well-greased machines" of Chiongbian, Koncz said.

Political defeat would be good news for those who want Pacquiao to continue boxing. Last week, his trainer, Freddie Roach, speculated to The Times that a political victory and resistance by Floyd Mayweather Jr. to stage a mega-bout could make Saturday's bout Pacquiao's final fight.

Yet, Pacquiao said Wednesday that, "I don't think this will be my last fight," and Koncz said even if Pacquiao does upset Chiongbian, "It will only probably cut back his fight schedule from three fights a year to one or two."

Neutral corner

Texas has selected Rafael Ramos to serve as referee for the Pacquiao-Clottey fight, and the judges will be Duane Ford of Nevada, Levi Martinez of New Mexico and Nelson Vazquez of Puerto Rico.

Ramos worked the entertaining Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz fight in Houston in 2009, a bout that Martinez judged.

Ford is a veteran official who judged Pacquiao's victories over Miguel Cotto and his 2008 split-decision win over Marquez, a bout that Ford gave to Pacquiao, 115-113. Vazquez has been assigned to Shane Mosley's past two bouts.

Concert tour

Koncz said Pacquiao will earn more than $100,000 to perform in concert March 21 at Hawaii's Waikiki Shell venue, with plans to extend the "concert tour" to Canada (Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver) during the third week of June.

Pacquiao's singing sprouted from karaoke at home to appearances on Philippine talk shows to a post-fight concert after he defeated Miguel Cotto in November, to last week's appearance on " Jimmy Kimmel Live."

"Our contract requires a 35-minute performance in Hawaii," Koncz said. "But we'll go beyond that, for sure."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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