Why Manny Keeps Fighting
By: Sean Crose
“Pacquiao will have earned $500 million from boxing purses and endorsements during his two-decade professional career.”
So wrote Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes last April, on the eve of Manny Pacquiao’s supposed last fight against Timothy Bradley. Clearly both the monetary amount and the title of “last fight” are now no longer valid. To be sure, Pacquiao is facing reliable if not brilliant welterweight Jessie Vargas this Saturday in yet another Vegas throwdown. He’s also set to make a whole lot of money in doing so. Make no mistake about it, the gravy train keeps rolling for Pacquiao.
For how long, though? And at what cost, at this point?
To be sure, there are those out there who are wondering why Pacquiao, who is now a senator in his homeland and inching closer to forty by the day, is still so eager to ply his trade. The truth, upon reflection, may come down to three simple – and not entirely incompatible – reasons. The first is that Pacquiao, believe it or not, possibly needs money. To be sure, Pacquiao is an exceedingly generous fellow, despite whatever flaws some may find in his character.
“I can’t,” Pacquiao said a short time ago, in the early leadup to Saturday’s fight, “rely on my salary as public official.” Beg pardon? Wasn’t the man who said this the same individual who earned well over a hundred million dollars for his fight with Floyd Mayweather alone? How much cash does a guy actually need to get by these days? Apparently quite a lot if others rely on him.
“I’m helping the family of my wife and my own family, as well,” Pacquiao explained. “Many people also come to me to ask for help,” he added, “and I just couldn’t ignore them.” And therein may lie the problem. Pacquiao, for those who don’t know, comes from a background so harsh it fell well below substandard. Living in a hut. Being chased out of one’s home by armed soldiers – such things do not make for an easy childhood.
Nor, it seems, do they make for a cold heart once one finds success. A product of poverty, Pacquiao appears to be willing to go out of his way for those who feel its sting. Still, it would be a mistake to confuse the man with Mother Theresa. Pacquiao is known to have had a serious gambling problem, after all. There were also women other than his wife for a spell and perhaps the age old boxer’s problem of hanger’s on. To be sure, camp followers can damage a successful boxer more than a left hook can.
Yet there may be another big reason Pacquiao wants to keep fighting – one, specifically, with a 49-0 record who bested Pacquiao last year in a fight that disappointed untold numbers of fans and casual observers alike. I write, of course, of Floyd Mayweather, who has – and still does – represent the white whale of the entire boxing world, an elusive target both in and out of the ring who holds the promise of millions of dollars as well as ring glory, should he agree to a match.
While the very thought of Floyd-Manny, Chapter Two sends collective groans throughout the boxing world, it’s also pretty much a fact of life that all who piss and moan at the prospect would cough up hard earned money to see Mayweather and Pacquiao get it on again. In short, there’s a ton of money and potential glory to be found in that possible rematch. Mayweather knows it. Pacquiao knows it. And Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s outspoken promoter, knows it, too. Whether it would have made a difference or not, Pacquiao fought Mayweather hurt. Don’t think it doesn’t bother the man, no matter how much money, power, fame and love he receives.
Still, there’s no guarantee that the rematch no one wants – but will still watch, should it occur – will ever happen. Surely, Pacquiao and his camp are aware of this. Perhaps, then, the Filipino icon is simply driven by a desire for ring competition. To be sure, boxing is historically an exceedingly tough endeavor for its most successful practitioners to break from. The list of great fighters who hung on too long or who made ill advised comeback attempts is almost too numerous to count.
It’s curious, though, why Pacquiao would choose to face Vargas if he truly was sticking around for the sheer thrill of battle. There’s more challenging opponents out there, after all. Keith Thurman, for instance, has expressed a willingness to fight the man. And, if politics were to prevent a Thurman-Pacquiao fight from happening, fellow Arum fighter Bud Crawford would no doubt be happy to fill the bill for Pacquiao.
Why, one may well ask, is Pacquiao not facing men like Thurman and Crawford, when both would jump at the chance to face him? Is it victory he desires more than the battle itself? There is a fine line between the thrill of competition and the thrill of winning, after all. To be sure, only Pacquiao himself knows the answer. Or not. Indeed, sometimes it’s unknown forces within or own psyches which drive us. Or perhaps they’re forces we ourselves simply don’t want to know about. Could this be the case with Pacquiao?
Or could he just really, really want to fight Jessie Vargas?