Manny Pacquiao: Humble is as Humble does

When digging through the coverage of Manny Pacquiao in the media, there are some very common themes.

Most seems to be straight-up bullet points from Top Rank and Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter.

The other type of coverage comes from the frenzied busy work of Pacquiao groupies-in-training who are working with the sole purpose of somehow ingratiating themselves to Manny and/or milking the Pacquiao phenomenon for penny-clicks and free exposure.

To believe this public relations blanketing of the media, Manny is little more than a humble, noble, servant of God; He holds no grudges, harbors no ill will and only works for the betterment of his people. In the words of Pacquiao towel boy and “scribe for rent,” Michael Marley, “Manny Pacquiao is a humble superhero.”

As someone looking outside the storefront window of Pacquiao-mania, though, the view is quite odd and more than a little puzzling. I guess it takes a true believer, a real bought-and-sold disciple, to somehow classify a private jet-flying, multi-media star with a posse the size of a small South American army as a “humble superhero.”

I mean, if it was anyone else in the world, “humble” would be the last word used to describe a man with a full-time personal meat cutter, rice fluffer and foot masseuse in his employ. Nor is there much humility to be found in the lavish self-thrown birthday parties where 3,000-plus hangers-on, madly desperate to be part of the Pacquiao inner circle are crowded into a convention hall for the amusement of King Manny.

They are subjected to Pacquiao’s karaoke versions of “La Bamba” and “Endless Love,” then line dances featuring Manny’s kids, self-aggrandizing slide shows and tribute poetry, and even a performance by his mother, Dionisia, as she does the tango on stage. Six hours of self-initiated glorification. And you better like it.

And that’s a common theme when it comes to Manny. You better do what he says, love what he loves, and approve of everything he does or you are out of the picture. Manny will take his proverbial ball and go home.

“Nobody wants to be the guy who asks Manny the question that might irritate him on a particular day,” Trainer Freddie Roach told GQ Magazine. “If you’re the guy who says, ‘Manny, you’re supposed to fly to Manila today,’ and Manny doesn’t want to hear it, you might not be the guy who gets to fluff his rice.”

This attitude comes through even more clearly in his professional dealings.

It’s a real stretch to place the “humble” tag on someone who has been so aggressively stubborn in negotiations over the years as Pacquiao, forcing opponents to jump through hoops and even using his Top Rank leverage to force other Top Rank fighters to bend to his every whim.

The cult of personality around Pacquiao is so great, his fans so blindly loyal, that, at this point, he can be credited for a noble, righteous gesture even while flat-out doing the opposite.

He is a God-fearing, saintly figure yet has been an admitted womanizer and an associate of some very shady individuals.

A soon to be eight division world champ, yet his last four titles have been only of the paper variety against fighters who were not the best in their divisions.

A man who is fond of speaking humbly to the media yet allows all sorts of mean-spirited attacks and half-truths to be spoken by those under his employ.

A world class fighter whose last five opponents and nine of his last fourteen could be considered roadkill, coming off of career-crushing defeats.

Pacquiao’s latest comments further reveal a man who is not living up to the self-produced press releases and glowing media reports churned out by the Pacquiao Press Corps:

“I hope Mayweather is serious enough in doing business with Don King and is not doing this only to save face…I say this to both these men: Let’s Get It On. Fight like warriors and brave men. I am the champion, I have the belts and I should not be the one challenging you. I should not even be the one trying to make this fight happen…My promoter Bob Arum will be waiting for your call and will be very glad to hear what you have to say. The sooner, the better…if Mayweather is not really a coward, he needs to prove himself in the ring.”

Even writer Ronnie Nathanielsz, Pacquiao crony and groupie, found it hard to reconcile this bravado with the man who has become a synonym for the word “humble” in his on-line articles.

“While the statement appeared in a column under Pacquiao’s name,” Nathanielsz justifies in Boxingscene.com, “Sportswriters who know Pacquiao well realize that at times he merely verbalizes or scribbles an outline and a ghost-writer does the rest. Given recent history it seems that a ghost-writer has taken liberties with Pacquiao’s basic statement.”

No, Ronnie, this is completely consistent with a man who has become accustomed to doing one thing while basking in the praise of doing quite the opposite. If Manny likes the reaction this statement produces, he will say nothing. If there’s a backlash from this trash talk, he will force one of his cronies to take the blame. That’s how King Manny rolls.

Dichotomy is one word that could be used to describe this. Hypocrisy is another.

Let’s not forget that it was Pacquiao’s stubborn unwillingness to consider true random blood testing that killed the first proposed fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and it will likely kill any future efforts at making the bout.

To characterize Manny as chasing Floyd is simplistic, at best, because, during the only real, face-to-face negotiations ever conducted between both fighters, it was Floyd who was willing to agree to purse split and weight penalties. And it was Floyd who was willing to go to arbitration and even compromise on the cut-off date on the testing while it was Manny who initiated lawsuits, refused to budge, refused to negotiate and eventually killed the talks.

But, like much in and around the world of Manny Pacquiao, perception and reality are often mutually exclusive concepts.

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