In the annals of sports, there have been many tales of acts that bordered on the improbable, if not downright impossible.
There is, for example, baseball great Babe Ruth, who dictated where exactly he would score a homerun. The Sultan of Swat even pointed to the area where he would send the ball flying, and that is precisely what he did. The surprising thing is that Ruth was already considered as being past his prime at that time.
A movie of his life showed that the homerun was promised to a boy whom Ruth had visited in a hospital. Seriously ill, the boy asked the Babe for the homerun. How could he say no?
Two days ago, the great Manny Pacquiao accomplished something quite similar, albeit less dramatic.
The pugilist known worldwide as Pacman said that he would defeat the bull-tough Mexican-American Brandon Rios, dedicating his promised victory not just to the Filipino people, as he is wont to do, but specifically to the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
That storm came just as Pacquiao was at the tail end of his training for this, one of the most important fights in his career. How painful it must have been for the ‘Pambansang Kamao’ or National Fist not to be able to visit his countrymen when his presence was most wanted.
But his trainer Freddie Roach was adamant in refusing to allow him to visit. Roach knew that to allow Pacquiao to head for central Visayas at that time could have crushed his spirit. He could very easily have lost the fight with Rios had he entered the ring in a state of depression. After his win, the Filipino idol admitted to having cried when he learned of the devastation that all but destroyed Leyte and its surrounding provinces. Millions of Filipinos did, and still do.
Having lost his last two fights, there was much talk that Pacman was now over the hill. Even Roach said that had his fighter lost, it would have been the end. Retirement would be the only option left.
Last Sunday, Pacquiao showed the world that he was far from being a spent force. He was, in fact, still in deadly peak form.
Consider that Rios was no patsy. Prior to this fight, he had only lost once. Younger and bigger than Pacman, Rios is the classic brawler, one who does not like to back down.
With his 35th birthday coming up, Manny Pacquiao is no longer the young stud who defeated all comers as he moved up the ranks, earning an unprecedented eight world titles in the process. But in place of that ferocious-yet-classy boxer, the world witnessed a smart ring tactician, following a brilliant game plan.
For all intents, Pacquiao gave Rios a lesson in the sweet science. At the end of the 12th round, Pacman’s face was unmarked, while the Mexican-American’s visage was swollen, bruised and bloodied.
The Filipino embraced his game but outfought opponent at the final bell, proving yet again that he is a true sportsman.
Two days ago, he entered the ring seemingly as a fading sports idol. Twelve rounds later, he exited as the eternal hero, the people’s champ that he has been for the past decade or so.
Thank you, Manny Pacquiao, for inspiring the Filipino people yet again by showing them that rising from the jaws of a crushing defeat is not only possible, but very, very doable.