By Vanni de Sequera, for Yahoo! Southeast Asia Friday November 19, 2010 12:12 pm PHT
A new book about Manny Pacquiao sheds light on how a once one-dimensional slugger has somehow evolved into the Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Robin Hood of boxing.
Acclaimed sports biographer Gary Andrew Poole traveled the world observing the Pambansang Kamao at the gym, in the ring and behind the scenes of his chaotic personal life. His new book on Pacquiao has been called by critics as an unprecedented "journey to Planet Pacquiao." Vanni de Sequera spoke to the book's author.
"Pacman: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao-the Greatest Pound-for-Pound Fighter in the World", a 248-page book by Gary Andrew Poole, helps us understand how this complex Filipino has managed to subdue the best boxers of his generation.
Poole details how Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao grew up in Sarangani Province in Mindanao, poorer than even the poorest in this desperate "City of Dust." When Pacquiao was barely a teenager, he formed an alliance with fellow young boxer-dreamers in General Santos City. To the author, it was a show of solidarity that would forever define the 90-lb. man-boy.
Those who obsessively follow the exploits of Pacquiao are troubled by questions that hang in the air like yesterday's cigarette smoke. How does a fighter – who began his professional boxing career at 106 lbs. (by loading his underwear during weigh-ins) when only 15 years old (by lying about his age to the Games and Amusements Board) – conquer the kings of boxing, moving up in weight with chin, punch, and speed intact more successfully than any fighter in history. "Pacman: Behind the Scenes…" offers intriguing glimpses into the possible answers.
Trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning expert Alex Ariza, for one, belatedly came into his life. (Or did Pacquiao, with his ferocious sense of destiny, enter theirs?) Also, maybe poverty never gave Pacquiao's insufficiently nourished frame a chance until science-based nutrition triggered his adult growth spurts.
One way or another, Poole has managed to puncture the bubble of the Pacquiao mystique – quite a feat given the boxer's lunatic-fringe entourage. Poole even gingerly devotes a chapter to Pacquiao's alleged romantic relationships.
CRITICAL MASS: Who initially approached you with the idea to write this book?
GARY ANDREW POOLE: About four or five years ago, I was in the Wild Card Boxing Club with Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach. I was covering a different fight, but he kept going on and on about Pacquiao. Roach told me the PacMan might become one of the greatest fighters ever. My ears pricked up. I was in the midst of writing another book, but I started researching Pacquiao, who was not much of a story yet in the United States. I thought he had a compelling story – one that went beyond his athletic feats. It also interested me on another level, something I came to call the "globalization of celebrity."
Boxing, they say, is the sport of the underclass: there have been many success stories about champion fighters whose fighting qualities were honed by abject poverty. What exactly is it about Manny, do you think, that empowered him to transcend merely being a respected titleholder into becoming included in the Greatest-Ever debate?
I think his boxing accomplishments, not his dramatic personal story, put him into the Greatest-Ever debate. He has fought excellent boxers – some of the best of his era. He has fought brilliantly. I just sat ringside as he pummeled Antoino Margarito. It was another virtuoso performance that earned Pacquiao his eighth belt. At fight time, Margarito was 17 pounds heavier than Pacquiao – that's David-and-Goliath-type stuff, and only adds to the Greatest-Ever talk and the mythology around the PacMan. Of course, a win over Floyd Mayweather would leave little doubt about his supremacy.
A few times, you write that Manny is the greatest boxer since Ali. Why do you believe he is superior to Marvin Hagler, Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, and Roy Jones Jr., among others?
Every boxer you named is a legend. Pacquiao? He has the fastest hands ever. He has some of the quickest feet. He has two powerful hands. He has an incredible boxing mind. I think what separates him from those great boxers is his ability to fight and dominate much, much bigger world-class opponents. He is essentially defining this era of boxing. He has become a star of sorts in the United States, but he is a victim of boxing's decline in America. I think that is the reason people are sometimes skeptical of his accomplishments – many Americans, including the US media, haven't followed him as closely as the stars of the past, and so they don't fully appreciate his ring brilliance.
"Pacman: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao-the Greatest Pound-for-Pound Fighter in the World" is now available at all Fully Booked branches in the Philippines.
Reposted From Vanni Sequera of Yahoo! Southeast Asia