You’re Manny Pacquiao. You’re like a Hollywood star past his calling that knows all his lines, has got the script down pat, but who is beginning to miss the mark. You can still tell the jokes on the late night talk show circuit and sing karaoke like nobody’s business. You know all of Freddie’s moves and what he’s going to tell you to do next. Arum is still tapping out the tunes from the Top Rank offices on the Howard Hughes Parkway, and whether the press conference be in Beverly Hills or New York City you know when to smile and when to frown. How long ago was it that you drowned out De La Hoya, hammered out Hatton and conquered Cotto? How long ago was it that you were the Little Lord Fauntleroy of the Philippines?
The fights still happen at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. You still train at the Wild Card, still stay at Mandalay Bay and win or lose, you still sing your songs after the fights. You hand out dollars to your people as though it were monopoly money, but that money is drying up like a pond in the desert and you’re not the champion anymore. Where did the years go and how did everything that was so good for so long go so wrong so fast?
You beat Brandon Rios in China a couple months ago and they told you that you were as good you have ever been. But you’re Manny Pacquiao and you know the truth. You haven’t knocked anybody out in over four years. The IRS sends you letters saying you owe them $18 million. In your home country they’ve locked your bank accounts and tell you the number owed there is $50 million. You’re Manny Pacquiao and even if you fight and win forever these debts can never be repaid. Just ask Robinson or Louis or Tyson.
You’re Manny Pacquiao and your own mother told you she wanted you to stop when Marquez knocked you cold. You said you can’t stop, that there is still more to do and that if you can get Marquez for the fifth time you will win for sure. They’re going to trot Timothy Bradley out for you on April 12th. You beat him the first time but were robbed of the decision. You’re Manny Pacquiao and you said it was “OK” and that’s how the fight game goes. You smiled through the pain and privately choked on the tears.
They all say that you are broke. Your own trainer says that Bradley is a bad match-up for you, but you have always said that your promoter makes your fights and that you simply fight them. Some ask how much more you can take. You just turned 35 and most everyone who is not on your payroll are whispering that your best days are in the rearview mirror. But you’re Manny Pacquiao and because you have most always been a winner it’s hard to think like a loser.
For longer than most can remember the world has been threatening and tantalizing the fight of all fights for you against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. But Floyd wants all the money and says he will only fight you if you divorce yourself from Bob Arum. He says he is the draw and that you are not. The numbers support that notion, but you’re Manny Pacquiao and they tell you not to listen to the Chicken Littles that tell you the sky is falling down around you. The same ones that told you all your taxes were paid in full.
When the typhoon hit your homeland, you were there with your wallet opened wide. But because your accounts had been frozen, you had to borrow the goodwill money. Your people love you and you love them, but for the first time, none of what you were able to give was enough. You’re Manny Pacquiao, and you say God will provide, but you will never have those riches again. What you haven’t given away, some have stolen from you. Maybe you fight for free against Bradley and still there will be a tax bill to reconcile. Then what do you give?
When they woke you after Marquez stretched you out, you smiled and said you were OK. Your smile was crooked and your eyes were glazed. Your wife, the beautiful Jinkee, was crying and Freddie was biting his bottom lip. For the first time since you stepped through the pro ropes 19 years ago, the crowd went silent. How could 16,000 people be so quiet? Your inky black hair was flat and the hop that has always been in your step was replaced with a stutter. Some have been asking how much more one man can take.
But you’re Manny Pacquiao. You’re not Robinson, you’re not Louis and you’re not Ali. They tell you they love you. They tell you they won’t let you go out as a loser. You’re Manny Pacquiao - and you believe them.