Our gratitude & support whatever he decides

THERE was something for everyone in Manny Pacquiao’s win over Argentine Lucas Matthysse in their ring fight for the World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight crown last Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When he floored his opponent in the third and fifth rounds and dropped him finally in the seventh round, people watching the fight on television all over the country rose to their feet to cheer him. It has been this way in all his fights; everything else, it seems, is suspended, even traffic, during his bouts.

Because he may have slowed down in his last few fights, having scored his last knock-down nine years ago, it was thought that his age – 39 – may have caught up with him. But last Sunday, he showed a new speed that may have surprised his foe who was four years his junior.

Senator Pacquiao’s fellow government officials were one with him as he faced his foe in the ring – from President Duterte who was right there in Kuala Lumpur, his fellow senators as well as congressmen from all parties, both pro-administration and opposition.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in which Pacquiao is a colonel in the Reserve Force, said his win showed the world how determined, disciplined, and hardworking Filipinos are, just like his comrades in the AFP. The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Pacquiao serves as an inspiration to every Filipino to join in fighting crime and illegal drugs in the country.

Pacquiao’s achievement, both as a prize fighter and as an official, was of special significance to the people of Mindanao. This son of General Santos City has joined other sons of Mindanao, led by President Duterte, who have brought honor to their home region as well as to the entire nation.

Not generally known is the fact that Pacquiao, a high school dropout who went to Manila to seek his fortune, has given back much of what he has earned to the poor people of his province. As early as 2016, he had donated around $200 million of the $500 million he had earned from his fights and endorsements. He built free housing for the homeless people in Bales Village in Saranggani province.

Pacquiao, a Born-Again Christian, began to build a R200-million house of worship on a five-hectare lot in General Santos City in 2014. “I owe to God everything I have now,” he said. After he retires from boxing, he said, he would spread the Word of God as one of his jobs.

In so many sectors, on so many levels, the nation reveled in Pacquiao’s victory last Sunday. As he congratulated the champion, President Duterte said it may be time for him to retire and enjoy life. “I’d like to see my friend rest on his laurels and enjoy life,” he said.

At age 39, most fighters are indeed past their prime and boxing is such a punishing sport. But Pacquiao who had lost four of his last ten fights appeared to have found new strength and speed for the Matthysse bout and there is talk of his fighting other champions, possibly Floyd Mayweather again. Whatever course he finally decides to take, Pacquiao has the nation’s gratitude for the honor he has already given us and our support for whatever he ultimately decides to do.