The Nation’s Fist

Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao.

If there’s ever been a tweet I wish I’d written, it’s this one:

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It’s a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of Filipinos and Filipino Americans share. Manny wasn’t the perfect boxer (too susceptible to counter-punchers like Marquez and Mayweather) or the perfect man (a womanizer and someone who has idiotic beliefs about gays), but he was one of us.

Twenty years ago if you would’ve told me that a Filipino boxer would one day be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and would headline the biggest pay-per-views year in and year out, I would’ve said you were crazy.

Growing up, my favorite boxers were Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. They were the larger-than-life athletes that fans gravitated to, but it wasn’t until Pacquiao burst on the scene that I felt a kinship to a boxer.

He was our community’s brother, cousin, uncle, father; the one who represented you, good and bad. He showed the world the ferociousness of Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist) inside the ring and the soft-spoken humility outside of it.

He did what any of us would’ve done in his position, whether it was hamming it up with Will Ferrell or chartering two planes for friends and family to one of his fights.

And those fights! From the moment he started collecting championship belts until last night’s trilogy-closing domination of Timothy Bradley, a Pacquiao fight was An Occasion, a family party filled with plenty of laughter and too much food. It was like a Filipino mash-up of the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving, as you cheered him on with your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, long-lost cousins, pseudo-family members, and random strangers. We made predictions of his fights and debated his place among boxing’s immortals, but not before stuffing ourselves from tables overflowing with food and drink.

While I’ll miss his fights and the parties, I’m rooting for him to stay true to his retirement. He has nothing left to prove and we all know about the damage that fighters suffer and its effect on their later years. I want to see him continue his public service to the best of his ability.

He’s my favorite fighter of all time, warts and all.

Day 298: Weekend Wrap-Up

Lakers' Julius Randle

Lakers’ Julius Randle

Random thoughts on a fun weekend:

  1. Drafted my fantasy basketball team last night. The league I’m in started back in 2000, but we stopped for a few years. Like fantasy baseball, the hoops game doesn’t lend itself well to the weekly fantasy format. Football will always be king when it comes to make-believe teams.
  2. The fantasy basketball draft itself was a lot of fun, as always. The core group of the league has been together for years, so it’s basically an annual family reunion: we eat, eat, and eat again while drafting our teams.
  3. I didn’t draft a Laker, but I’m already considering working a trade for Julius Randle. Funny that I ended up with Draymond Green, the guy Randle claimed, “can’t guard me.”
  4. After the draft we played poker, which is something I haven’t done in a while. I miss it, but the games are tougher to put together nowadays. My buddy and I got involved in the first big hand of the night and our analysis of how we played it became the running joke of the night.
  5. On the TV while we were playing poker was the replay of Gennady Golovkin’s last win. Poker and prizefighting: the perfect guys’ night out while staying in.
  6. I need Carson Palmer to play well for both of my fantasy football teams to win. This is the kind of season I’ve had: I chose Palmer over Andrew Luck and Drew Brees in both of my leagues.
  7. The Raiders went on the road and beat the Chargers! It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say this. With three victories, my favorite NFL team has already equaled its win total from last season. Wow.
  8. Manny Pacquiao announced that his next fight would be his last. No matter who he fights, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll do better pay-per-view business than the Mayweather-Berto dud.

Day 232: Throwback Tree Thursday

Baguio, Philippines

Baguio City, Philippines

For Throwback Thursday (and a belated Tree Tuesday), here’s a photo from my trip to the Philippines five years ago.

Most people’s first thoughts on the Philippines are of heat and beaches … and Manny Pacquiao. When I was there, I felt the heat, hung out at a few of the beaches, but never saw the Pac Man. I missed him by a few months; he trains in Baguio City before finishing his camp in Los Angeles.

The high altitude of Baguio is perfect for training; fighters in the U.S. do the same thing at Big Bear, California. Baguio reminds me of Lake Tahoe, with its plethora of trees and mild weather. It’s just one of many beautiful places in the Philippines; one I miss a lot and I can’t wait to see again.

Day 122: No surprises


No surprises in tonight’s “fight.” Floyd is the smartest fighter, no, boxer of this generation. Just like Sugar Ray Leonard waiting years for Marvelous Marvin Hagler to lose his best stuff, Mayweather followed the game plan to a T. The Manny of 2015 is nowhere near the Manny of 2010. Great job, “champ.”

Day 121: Ang Pambansang Kamao

Pacquiao-Mayweather weigh-in.

Pacquiao-Mayweather weigh-in.

We’re less than 24 hours away from the Fight of the Century and I’m bracing myself for a letdown. As I wrote on Day 28 of my Quest, both fighters are past their primes and no matter who wins, there will always be the “well, if they had fought five years ago…” question hanging over this fight. Millions of people are paying over $100 to watch on television, while others are forking over thousands and thousands of dollars to be in the arena. The revenue from the match will be half a billion dollars. Today’s weigh-in already had the crowd and energy of a superfight. There’s no way this thing is living up to the hype. It’s sickening, it’s insane …

And I’m fired up.

Pulitzer-Prize-winner Jose Antonio Vargas wrote a recent article on why Manny means so much to Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. It’s a terrific piece that doesn’t gloss over Manny’s shortcomings and Vargas, like millions of us, still root for Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist). He’s forever tied into our identity, someone that Filipinos can proudly declare as their own, mainly because so many of us can relate to his rise from poverty to the pinnacle of his profession. We might not have gone days without food or received an eight-figure paycheck, but in Manny we see the struggles of our parents and grandparents. We see his hard work providing for the ones he loves. We see his smile and we see ourselves, our families.

No matter what happens tomorrow night, I hold my head up high. Just like Manny Pacquiao.

Day 120: Supply and Demand

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao

My friend is out in Vegas right now for the big fight. He’s a huge boxing fan and even though he’s not going to the fight itself, he is going to the weigh-in tomorrow. The weigh-in takes place at the MGM and tickets were $10 each. My buddy posted earlier today that scalpers were selling them for $400 each.

That’s $400 to watch two men be weighed. Of course, you could fork out a few thousand more to actually watch them fight, so $400 to be part of the circus is a bargain.

It’s the perfect example of supply and demand. And sports-fueled insanity.

Day 115: One Week Away



I’m wondering if all sports fans feel like I do about next Saturday’s Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. I’m excited, but it’s tempered by a few facts: both fighters are past their primes, the pay-per-view is $100, and there’s a chance that the fight will be a big stinkbomb. If Mayweather truly is head-and-shoulders above Pacquiao, then we’ll get another Floyd dancefest, featuring 12 rounds of defense and counterpunching. In other words, I’ll be asleep by round six.

I’m betting on Manny knocking out Money, though. Floyd was smart to wait five years as Pacquiao went through a few wars and sustained damage, but I think it’s going to come back and haunt Floyd. He hasn’t had to fight anybody in Manny’s class and hasn’t faced anyone with Manny’s power. Floyd won’t be able to dance away from Manny. He’s going to have to take some huge shots and while the fight won’t justify its $100 price tag (or the tens of thousands of dollars that actual attendees will be paying), it should be an exciting match.

Nobody will be asleep due to boredom. Only Floyd will, thanks to a thunderous left from the Pac Man.

Day 113: Great Deal

Pacquiao-Mayweather tickets on Stubhub.

Pacquiao-Mayweather tickets on Stubhub.

There’s a great deal over on right now. Only $128, 705.25 for two ringside seats to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. That’s less than $65,000 per seat!

If I had 128,705 friends I could borrow a dollar from each of them and be in Las Vegas next Saturday night.

Note to self: make more friends before the next Fight of the Century.

Day 105: Greatest. Fight. Ever.

Hagler vs Hearns

Hagler vs Hearns

Hagler. Hearns.

Mention those two names and sports fans know exactly what you’re talking about: the greatest fight in boxing history. Three rounds of toe-to-toe action featuring two hall-of-famers, thirty years ago today.

I watched the fight with my dad, brothers, cousins, uncles, and friends at my uncle’s house. The room was abuzz with excitement and my most vivid memory was everybody screaming and shouting from the opening bell until Hearns finally crumpled to the canvas.

Everybody knew we had just seen history. I’ve watched my share of sports during my lifetime and this was one of the few, and definitely the best, examples of the event living up to the hype. It was exhilarating, the once-in-a-lifetime fight that thrilled during every second of the match.

The hype for the latest Fight of the Century has been building for years. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are set to square off in less than a month and it’s relatively quiet right now on the media front. Thankfully, we’re not getting daily write-ups about the fight (although I’m sure that will change with about two weeks to go). There won’t be a 24/7 or Total Access reality series, since the event is basically selling itself, but you can follow each fighter on social media to see what they’re doing every day.

I’m not as excited about Pacquiao-Mayweather as I would’ve been a few years ago. As I wrote earlier this year, both fighters are past their primes and fans will need to temper their expectations for a war like Hagler-Hearns. We’re more likely to get another Hagler-Leonard, which means Floyd will use his better boxing skills to weasel his way to a decision. Just as Leonard did nearly three decades (!) ago, he’ll do just enough to win the match.

And this is exactly why I’ll always be a Pacquiao and Hagler fan rather than a Mayweather and Leonard fan. Pacquiao and Hagler are fighters. Mayweather and Leonard are boxers. You can argue that boxers understand the sweet science. You can also argue that it’s called a prizefight, not a prizebox.

I appreciate boxers. I root for fighters.