The “most anticipated boxing fight of the century” is happening this Saturday and it’s all my family has been talking about for the last few weeks. After years of wondering if this fight was ever going to happen, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are finally going to face each other in front of millions of fans all over the world. That sounds hyperbolic, but I’m not kidding when I say that almost every Filipino knows that this fight is happening. Tomorrow, two of the best boxers in the world are competing against each other, for pride, title, bragging rights, and an egregious amount of money.
Because I’m Filipino, my family and I have watched almost every high profile boxing match Manny Pacquiao has fought in over the last several years. As a family, we rallied behind Pacquiao because he shares our nationality and our history. Therefore, I feel as if I have a lot at stake in this fight against Mayweather tomorrow night.
Even though boxing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I’m not one to celebrate male aggression, I completely understand my relatives’ fascination with Manny Pacquiao. I grew up in the United States and speak English exclusively, but when Pacquiao is on TV, I feel an irrational, unexplainable kinship to him. My connection to him may be tenuous at best, but my blind faith in him and his abilities is unparalleled. My dad and my relatives feel the same way. Because he’s Filipino, they see themselves in Pacquiao—as if his talents extend to them too, as if they contribute to his success somehow. As a people, his accomplishments are our accomplishments. Manny Pacquiao’s story is a typical Horatio Alger/Cinderella/David and Goliath story so it’s easy for anyone to insert themselves into his narrative. But because we as Filipinos share a culture with Pacquiao, it’s almost impossible not to see ourselves in his struggles and his achievements.
Manny Pacquiao is beloved in the Philippines not only because he’s a well-known figure who symbolizes our representation in mainstream media, but also because of his character. He gives back to a community that desperately needs help. In my unbiased opinion, Floyd Mayweather is rude, arrogant, and all around terrible. By comparison, in post-fight interviews, Manny showcases the kind of guy he is: kind, earnest, and altruistic. He’s humble and funny and we love listening to him attempt to form sentences in English. His celebrity status spreads to the Philippine government, where he serves as a Congressman. I’m listing all of his accolades because Manny Pacquiao is more than a venerated fighter who entertains us for a night or two—he’s a person who has a positive impact on a country that is struggling to pull itself out of poverty.
My dad told me that when Manny Pacquiao has a televised boxing match, somehow the crime rate in the Philippines decreases. I didn’t fact-check this because what my dad was trying to say is that Manny Pacquiao is considered a national treasure, one whose influence is greater than what he does inside the ring. The sentiment is the same, and it’s that Manny Pacquiao brings Filipinos together. He gives them something else to focus on and be proud of.
For instance, he’s brought my family closer together. A couple of Christmases ago, my aunt bought all of my cousins and I matching Pacquiao t-shirts. As everyone grew increasingly busy with their own lives, it got harder and harder for us to see each other outside of major holidays. But when Manny Pacquiao has a boxing match, one pair of my aunts and uncles will host a party wherein we all gather together, a rare mini-reunion, and celebrate a man whose English resembles that of our grandparents’. It could be poetic: this violent sport has the ability to connect people who might otherwise grow apart.
You might not believe me because it’s cheesy and it’s been said a thousand times before, but I already feel like we’ve won. Manny Pacquiao’s legacy has already had a positive effect on me, my family, and our home country that it seems selfish to ask for more. It would be incredible if Manny won tomorrow night. He’d be heralded as a national hero. But Manny has already done more for the Philippines than I could have asked for, so when he wins tomorrow night, it’ll be that much sweeter.
Also Floyd Mayweather is unkind and he doesn’t deserve any of that money.