Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kings Sugar Ray and Manny Pacquiao

Michael Buffer is absolutely right. Manny Pacquiao, the King of the Ring, is back.

Indeed, Pacquiao successfully displayed a boxing tutorial against Brandon Rios via unanimous decision at the Venetian in Macau, China last Sunday, November 24. Along with hundreds of my town mates, I watched the match live at the San Jose Gymnasium courtesy of the Local Government Unit of said municipality headed by Mayor Romulo M. Festin and LBC, the country’s leading money remittance company and cargo and mail forwarder. LBC was once known as another king, “Hari ng Padala”. Coming from back-to-back losses against Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, his team’s split up with longtime trainer Alex Ariza and the devastation brought about by typhoon Yolanda to his people and his wife Jinkee being pregnant, Pacquiao’s victory against Rios is as sweet as sugar. He proved once again that the name Pacquiao still sweetens our cup of coffee that fills our boxing-thirsty and salivating mouths.

A couple of boxers were nicknamed “Sugar”. Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Shane Mosley only borrowed it from the “original” Sugar Ray Robinson AKA Walter Smith, Jr. who was born in Detroit in May 3, 1921. Boxing historians said that in order to beat the minimum age on his maiden fight, Smith borrowed the birth certificate of his friend, Ray Robinson and hit the big time when he defeated Tommy Bell in December of 1946 for the welterweight division in a title fight and not unlike the Pacman, Sugar Ray bring sweetness to social, political and economic bitterness of many countries around the world and World War II’s acidic aftertaste that time.

Ray Robinson acquired this nickname after a journalist for a local newspaper named Jack Case told George Gainford (Robinson's manager) that he had a sweet fighter in Robinson, and his manager replied, "As sweet as sugar". Jack Case obviously remembered this comment, because in his newspaper article the next day, he named Ray as "Sugar Ray Robinson", thus the ring name.

Statistic shows the sourness and sweetness of Sugar Ray Robinson’s career: In 202 professional fights he registered 109 KOs, won 66 on point decisions, had 6 draws, lost 18 via scorecard, knocked out once and had 2 no contest. He died April 12, 1989 at 67 due to Alzheimer's disease and, of all diseases, diabetes!

Robinson’s boxing career was a combination of bitter-sweet-sweet-bitter journey. Not unlike Manny. Sugar Ray lost when he challenged Joey Maxim for the light-heavyweight title and opted to retire in 1952 but after 3 years, he once again climbed the ring and beat the middleweight title from Carl “Bobo” (what a ring name!) Olson. Sugar Ray’s career was a roller coaster ride until he lost the title for good to Paul Pender on January 22, 1960, exactly two years and one day before this sweetheart of yours (?) was born.

But why is boxing called a sweet science? British journalist named Pierce Egan in 1824, while he was covering the sport, referred to boxing as “the sweet science of bruising”.

It was summer of 1947 when Sugar Ray Robinson slugged it out against Jimmy Doyle and Robinson beat him so badly and Doyle collapsed and died. Some days later, at the hearing into the death, the district attorney turned to Ray and asked accusingly, "Couldn't you see he was hurt?" Sugar Ray looked at him resentfully. "Sir," he told him, "it's my business to hurt people." Even today, the statement is true. The business of boxing is still aimed at hurting the opponent. It is the unmatched gruesome business that we all love to watch.

In the post-fight press conference against Rios, Pacquiao said, “You know, I’m not doing that [giving a chance for Rios to deliver on the 12th round] because I’m tired or anything. I’m doing that because boxing is not about killing each other. Boxing is about entertaining people.” Generally Pacman is right but in some fights—like that of Robinson and Doyle—their distinction separates by just a hairline.

If there’s one lesson I learned from Manny Pacquiao when he fought his former sparring mate Rios last Sunday is this: In our struggle for certain social cause, we could be dominant and at the same time civilized as social communicators or advocates. Domination need not be arrogant like what the King of Kings taught us.

When Pacquiao and Rios exchanged punches last Sunday, we, Catholics are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King which is the end of the Liturgical Year.

Our King of the Ring showed the universe that it’s not yet the end of his boxing years….


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