Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao smiles as he soaks up the sounds of adoring fans screaming his name, their cheers heralding a new career as one of the Philippines’ most powerful politicians.
After winning his farewell fight against Tim Bradley, the eight-time world champion hit the campaign trail this week in a bid to secure a seat in the Philippine Senate when voters go to the polls on May 9.
Pacquiao’s rise from desperate street kid to boxing superstar has made him one of the nation’s biggest heroes and, in a nation where celebrities often become lawmakers, he is effortlessly translating sporting success into the political ring.
Surveys show Pacquiao is virtually guaranteed to win a Senate seat and his journey through shanty towns near Manila, where he threw caps and other souvenirs to joyous fans holding life-sized posters of him, appeared more a victory lap than an effort to convince skeptical voters.
“I’m happy campaigning right now. So many people are shouting, cheering for me. I’m glad with the warm welcome in every rally. I really didn’t expect that,” Pacquiao said on Thursday during a break from the festivities.
With constant speculation that another mega-bucks bout against US rival Floyd Mayweather Jr might lure him out of retirement, Pacquiao insisted he was enjoying “retired life” and that he was not thinking about boxing at all.
“I’m now a full-time politician. I remember when I dedicated myself to be a boxer and become a champion. It’s my feeling right now,” he said.
Pacquiao, who has served two terms as a congressman, is running for a seat in the 24-member Senate as part of a long-term strategy to become president, a not unrealistic ambition, given his wild popularity.
Pacquiao’s international reputation took a huge hit in February when the devout evangelical Christian described homosexuals as “worse than animals.”
Major sponsor Nike immediately cancelled its partnership with him and a host of US celebrities voiced outrage.
However, the comments had far less impact in the Philippines, with surveys showing his popularity slumping only slightly afterward, then quickly recovering.
Boosted by his success against Bradley this month, Pacquiao is now in third place in the Senate race and a near certainty to take one of the 12 seats available, according to the latest survey from a major pollster.
Campaigning in the bustling city of San Pablo on Thursday, there was no sign of rancor. Vendors and tricycle drivers mobbed Pacquiao as he got off a flatbed truck, eager to touch their hero and pose for selfies.
A high school drop-out, Pacquiao entered boxing to feed his family, and he says his political ambitions are anchored in his desire to help the poor.
He is promising to increase the salaries of teachers, offer scholarships to poor students and give subsidies to farmers, selling himself as a beacon of hope for millions of poor who have not felt the benefits of stellar economic growth under Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.
“I tell them not to be discouraged because our life was worse than theirs. We did not have our own house, our own land and sometimes even food,” Pacquiao said. “I experienced what it was like to sleep on the streets. I want to serve so they will be proud that Manny is for the poor.”
Many in San Pablo said they were drawn to Pacquiao’s message, as they talked about their own hardships.
“I hope he gives projects for non-college graduates,” said housewife Jessica Bautista, 29, who only finished grade school. “I hope we get training because the government and companies only prioritize graduates, but we have no diploma.”
Bautista’s husband, Julius, a rickshaw driver, said he also supported Pacquiao.
“He is already rich, so he will not be corrupt. I hope he just gives his salary to the poor,” he said.
Answering his critics, who say he is not fit to be a senator because he has little education or track record as an effective lawmaker, Pacquiao insisted his rags-to-riches story was enough to qualify him for the job.
“God raised me from nothing into something. I think I am the right person, the best person to answer the poor,” he said.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes. The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo. The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen