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Manny Pacquiao takes politically correct approach

Boxer, who will fight Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 in Texas, says he has to be more careful with his behavior since being elected to Congress in the Philippines.

September 01, 2010|Bill Dwyre
  • Being an elected congressman in the Philippines has made life a little different for Manny Pacquiao as he prepares for his November fight against Antonio Margarito.
Being an elected congressman in the Philippines has made life a little different… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

From New York — The congressman stepped to the microphone Wednesday, knowing his task. There were no babies to kiss, just media to embrace.

"Here we go again," said the Honorable Manny Pacquiao, recently elected member of the southern Sarangani District of the Philippines.

This implied nothing had changed, that his boxing career was the main thing and that he would continue to climb to heights reached by few before him. He will fight Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13 in Cowboys Stadium.

Taken at face value, that is a pretty big deal.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he will open up 70,000 seats, and there actually may be enough Texans unsophisticated enough about boxing to fill those. The last time Pacquiao fought there, 50,924 showed up to gawk through binoculars as Pacquiao battered Joshua Clottey, who mostly stood with his hands covering his head and took whatever Pacquiao dished out.

Margarito actually will fight back. In his heyday, he was a bruising brawler. But then they found plaster material in his glove wraps before his fight against Shane Mosley at Staples Center on Jan. 24, 2009. Since then, Margarito has spent more time testifying than boxing. Mosley beat him up that night, and public opinion has continued to do the same since.

Many boxing writers feel that the upset of the year in the sport has already taken place, and not in the ring. Texas gave Margarito a license to fight again, after California and Nevada said no. That is stunning to many.

Still, with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only real opponent left for Pacquiao, tilting with his own personal windmills and unwilling to compromise to make that big fight, Top Rank Promotions had to make a move. It had the Nov. 13 date for Pacquiao and the only opponent left who came close to creating a buzz was Margarito.

Margarito is bigger, taller and possibly a shot fighter. He is 32 with 44 fights and looks to be the more battle-weary. Pacquiao is 31 with 56 fights and still looks fresh and ready.

Nobody will know until fight night, even though somebookmakers have made Pacquiao a 5-1 choice, a big spread for this level fight.

Nor does anybody know exactly how the changes in Pacquiao's life will manifest themselves in the boxing ring, if at all. Certainly, as the fighters and their entourages made the second of three promotional stops Wednesday, it was not quite the same vibe.

First, the proceedings were clouded by the predicament of Top Rank's founder and chief executive, Bob Arum. The 78-year-old boxing legend learned Tuesday that his oldest son, John, 49, a lawyer, outdoorsman and skilled mountain climber, was lost in Washington's Cascade Mountains. With Arum in Washington, as rangers searched, the normal hype and bombast of a boxing news conference correctly toned down.

Also, topics that are usually suited for left hooks and uppercuts are now a bit superficial, even though the usual horde of pseudo boxing media, desperately seeking autographs and cellphone pictures instead of answers to newsworthy questions, was out in full drool.

Pacquiao's constituency comprises much more than boxing fans. He is loved for his success in the ring, but needed more for his decisions in legislative chambers. He will not linger after the three-city promotional tour. Philippine Congress is in session Monday.

Finally lured to a quiet spot away from the groupies with media badges, Pacquiao readily admitted that his life has changed dramatically.

"I have to watch my moves every day," he said. "People watch everything I do. I need to be careful."

He said he likes being a public servant, and that it carries over to his boxing to the point where winning now is more important.

"I want to win to show people I still can," he said. Pacquiao also said that, in a country still dangerously violent at times, his violence in the ring can be a vehicle of peace.

"When I fight, everybody is united," he said. "There is zero crime. There are no cars on the streets."

He was shown an article from the Sunday New York Times. It reported the anger and unrest in the aftermath of the Aug. 23 hostage crisis in Manila, in which eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed, apparently the result of inept handling by Philippine police.

Pacquiao responded like a politician.

"We know who was responsible," he said. "Our new government was very surprised this happened. It is being investigated and I am confident we can fix that incident."

What might he do personally, directly?

"If I have to present a bill so this doesn't happen again, I will," he said. "We want things to be good in our country for tourists, for foreigners."

And so, the story of Manny Pacquiao continues to amaze. He keeps making weight, despite carrying millions with him on his shoulders.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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