As news of Manny Pacquiao’s imminent retirement spread like wildfire, the local sporting scene was filled with a mélange of sadness and joy as personages yesterday paid homage to the country’s greatest sports hero of all time.
Pacquiao announced Monday night that he is calling it quits after 21 years as a professional immediately after his April 9 rubber match with Tim Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to enable him to focus on his life as a public servant.
According to surveys, Pacquiao, the incumbent congressman from Sarangani, is a cinch to make it to the top 12 senatorial roster during the May elections.
While Pacquiao’s retirement is boxing’s loss, it will be the vast majority of the Filipino people who will benefit from his departure from the sport that has made him an immortal, an all-time great who can be mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.
“What else is there to prove?” said Philippine Olympic Committee first vice president Joey Romasanta, who will serve as the country’s chief of mission in the Rio Olympics this August.
“He has won eight world titles and nobody’s done that before,” Romasanta said with conviction.
In a career that began in 1996, Pacquiao has racked up a record of 57-6-2 with 38 KOs, winning world titles at flyweight, super-bantam, feather, super-feather, lightweight, super-lightweight, welter, super-welter and middleweight.
Pacquiao’s winning ways were such a hit that the former doughnut vendor and construction worker became the poster boy for the country.
“Whenever I travel the world and people know that I am a Filipino, the first thing people ask me is ‘How’s Manny Pacquiao?’” businessman/sportsman Mikee Romero.
“Manny has put so much dignity to our nation and he has single-handedly changed the way the world looks at Filipinos,” added Romero.
Cebu’s Michael Aldeguer, the big boss of ALA Boxing, noted the huge difference between Pacquiao and his nemesis Floyd Mayweather.
“Floyd Mayweather fought for himself but Manny Pacquiao fought for the people and the sport that is why he is loved all over the world. He is not just a great fighter but even a greater person, which makes him special,” said Aldeguer, the most active promoter in the country today.
Rommel Nazario, the son of the late Rod Nazario, the boxing man who gave Pacquiao his break in the US, feels it is high-time for the 37-year-old General Santos City native to hang it up.
“He’s won eight world titles and that’s a big achievement alongside bringing honor to the country. Win or lose, he must retire,” said Nazario, who took over from his father following his death in 2009.
Even the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) is saddened by Pacquiao’s exit.
“It (retirement) signals the end of an era,” said ABAP executive director Ed Picson. “Many of us mourn it, but we knew it was coming. Hopefully, it will usher in a new era from the countless boxers he has inspired.”
No matter what happens on April 9, Pacquiao’s reputation as a demigod of the fight game is safe and secured.
“History will be very kind to Manny Pacquiao,” said former amateur boxing chief Manny Lopez. “Regardless of the outcome of his last fight, his legacy will remain the same.”
Courtesy of Nick Giongco of the Manila Bulletin. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickSpeaks