Book Review: “PacMan” by Gary A. Poole


Manny Pacquiao’s rise to superstardom is one of the world’s most unlikely stories.

Roger Federer never lived in a cardboard shack. Rafael Nadal’s parents didn’t need to “borrow a glass of rice from neighbors and mix it with water to make a porridge, enough to go around for six children.”

Muhammad Ali didn’t hang old flip-flops from a tree branch to be used as a speed bag. Manny Pacquiao overcame extreme poverty to succeed and prosper in the most dangerous sport there is.

Today, at age 31, Manny Pacquiao might be the most popular, respected and beloved champion in all of sports. His image is on currency and stamps. He makes movies, TV shows and sings concerts. His mere presence creates mob scenes almost anywhere he goes – hundreds of thousands turrn out when he returns to Manila after a big fight. Media crews follow and report almost everything he does, every day, back to The Philippines.

The stick-like boy who left home at 15 to pursue boxing is now the best and most exciting boxer on planet earth – and the subject of an excellent new biography titled “PacMan” by Gary Andrew Poole.

Poole takes you on a journey to Planet Pacquiao and it couldn’t have been a better read.

I loved the book from beginning to end, it’s a fantastic, entertaining and informative read. I finished in less than a week and consider it to be as good as any boxing biography my hands have ever touched.

Super Manny Pacquiao is of course an easy and obvious choice for a book subject but the author Poole, who has written for Time, GQ, Wired, and USA Today, is up to the task. He has obviously spent countless hours in the presence of Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach, knows the sport of boxing, and he is a very talented writer who does not allow any weak sections to slow the book down.

Poole shares many, many insightful anecdotes, which general and hardcore boxing fans are sure to appreciate.

You will simply be awed by insider perspectives on Pacquiao’s generosity, modesty, kindness, inspirational powers and just how much he is loved by Filippinos all over the world.

I enjoyed the stories about each of Pacquiao’s fights, some that I never saw. The learning experiences and what was learned and applied to modify his style or training habits – like the first Erik Morales fight in particular.

There are also humorous mentions about the Pacquiao entourage, which can number – amazingly – into the hundreds. The live-in dog walker, the man who carries the exercise sit-up mat, and the man who’s duty is to decide which flavor of Gatorade the champ might prefer that day. Some also serve Manny as personal photographers, drivers, publicists, suitcase carriers, towel carriers, videographers. The PacMan entourage members are omni-present 24/7, they even sleep at the foot of his bed.

“Manny, he’s always surrounded by people with their hands out,” says his fitness trainer and nutritionist Alex Ariza. “Manny’s got a lot of heart. There are mountains of people asking him for tickets, or asking him to fly them here or there. They ask him to invest in businesses, T-shirt companies, or who knows what.”

The stories about the fights, in and out of the ring, personal life, the alleged extra-marital affairs, everything is covered here.

Poole illustrates how the simple, humble, friendly Pacquiao has captured the heart of the world, everyone from Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton, Emanuel Steward, Dana White, Jerry Jones, Jimmy Kimmel, Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Kevin Garnett, they all love Manny.

You will too after reading this book, if you don’t already.

“PacMan” is a must-read for all sports fanatics.

“PacMan” By Gary Andrew Poole, De Capo Press, $25.00 (hardcover). 251 pages.

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