Andaya

Pacquiao’s passion is what sets him apart

April 12, 2024 Ed Andaya 344 views

I TALKED to the country’s greatest boxer of all time over dinner at Umenoya Japanese Restaurant in Biñan, Laguna the other night.

I asked him how he thought he was going to do.

I also asked him about the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League).

“Bet on me,” Manny Pacquiao said. “The MPBL is here to stay.”

It never was advisable to bet against Pacquiao, still looking fit as a fiddle at age 45.

When Pacquiao uttered those words, he sounded with the same determination and confidence he always had whenever he climbed the boxing ring during his prime.

But the only eight-division world champion in the brutal world of prizefighting, who won 12 major world titles in nearly four decades, is not getting ready to climb the boxing ring this time.

The man they called the Pacman is getting ready for another season — the sixth, in fact — of the MPBL, the home- and-away professional basketball league he personally founded in 2017.

With former PBA MVP-turned- commissioner Kenneth Duremdes and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ramos at his side, Pacquiao is looking to steer the 30-team, two-division league to another successful season from April to December as his way to keep the people happy in the wonderful world of sports.

But Pacquiao is not all about boxing — or basketball.

Pacquiao, who previously served as a senator from 2016 to 2022, is also into chess, volleyball, billiards, darts and tennis.

With his vast empire built from his earnings in boxing and support from well-meaning friends in the sporting community, Pacquiao now wants to make the country great again in sports.

Let’s listen to him:

On MPBL — “The MPBL, ang ‘Liga ng Bawat Pilipino’, is here to stay. Madami na tayong nadinig dati, lalo na nung nag-uumpisa pa lang tayo na hindi magtatagal ang liga natin. But with God’s grace, tuloy-tuloy pa din tayo sa pagbibigay ng kasiyahan sa ating mga kababayan, lalo na sa mga mahilig sa basketball. Patuloy naman tayong naghahanap ng mga paraan, kasama ang mga LGUs, na makatulong sa basketball, lalo na sa mga players. Kahit sa mga kabataan, patuloy kami sa pag-tulong na mas lalong i-angat ang basketball. Ngayon, may Junior MPBL na din tayo, pati MPBL Inter-Barangay.”

On MPBL Season 6 — “Gaya nga ng sinasabi ng madami, mas maganda, mas exciting ang mga games natin ngayon sa MPBL. Mas madami tayong magagaling na mga players ngayon, mas madaming malalakas na teams ngayon, mas balanse ang kumpetisyon. Sa North, malakas ang Pampanga, malakas ang Nueva Ecija, malakas ang Quezon, malakas ang Manila. Pati yung expansion teams na Pangasinan at Abra. Sa South, malakas ang Zamboanga, malakas ang South Cotabato, malakas ang Laguna.”

On proposals to bring foreign players in future MPBL tournaments — “To me, mas OK na tayo sa homegrown players natin. Yun naman talaga ang gusto natin sa MPBL, na mabigyan ng pagkakataon na makalaro ang mas madaming Pilipino players. Right now, pinayagan na natin tig-dalawang Fil-Ams bawat teams. Unlimited height. Tama na yun. Huwag na kumuha ng mga imports.”

On game-fixing — “Lagi ko ngang sinasabi, lalo na sa mga players at coaches, na walang puwang sa MPBL ang game-fixing. Galit ako sa mga nangloloko at hindi ko ito papayagan na mangyari sa liga natin. Sa ngayon, may 47 players na tayong nabigyan ng red card dahil dito. Pero yung ibang players, pwede naman natin payagan na muling makalaro sa MPBL. Pwede natin silang bigyan uli ng pagkakataon. Pero dapat magsalita sila at sabihin muna ang mga nalalaman nila tungkol sa game-fixing.”

On chess — “Nakatutuwa madami tayong magagaling na mga batang players ngayon, like Daniel Quizon at Ruelle Canino. Madami din tayong gustong isulong na programa sa chess, lalo na Vice President ako ng NCFP (National Chess Federation of the Philippines). Alam naman ninyo, mahal ko talaga ang chess. Madalas akong naglalaro ngayon kasama sina IM Chito Garma at Hamed at Alekhine Nouri.”

On volleyball — “Naglalaro din ako ng volleyball kaya naisipan ko palawigin din ang suporta dito kaya nagkaroon tayo ng MPVL (Maharlika Pilipinas Volleyball League) simula 2023. Magagaling ang mga players natin, kahit sa men’s division, kaya dapat talaga suportahan din.”

On darts — “Tuloy-tuloy din ang suporta ko sa darts, lalo na sa amin sa Mindanao. Madaming magagaling tayong darters, na regular na naglalaro sa Cotabato at Davao.”

On billiards — “Madami tayong kaibigan sa billiards, lalo na naglalaro din ako nyan. Si (billiards patron) Perry Mariano, matagal ko na kaibigan. Gusto ko din suportahan ang mga billiards players natin dahil alam naman natin magaling din tayong mga Pilipino dyan.”

On his advise to young athletes hoping to follow his footsteps — “Disiplina at pagsisikap, lalo na sa training. Yun ang importante, yun talaga ang kailangan. Ako, Manny Pacquiao na ako. Pero pagdating sa training, lagi 101 percent. Kung ano sinasabi ng coach-trainer, sinusunod ko. Kung may suggestion ako, sasabihin ko, pero susunod pa din ako sa coach ko.”

Any sports fan worth his salt can tell Pacquiao is saying — and doing — the right thing as far as sports is concerned.

And that really is what sets him apart.

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