Manny scores in USA voting

2010-11-04 10:29

New York - Manny Pacquiao has received another accolade. He is being credited for helping to get one of the most powerful men in American politics re-elected.

On Thursday, the day after the US midterm election, Pacquiao was talking politics. Understandable, since the best boxer in the world, pound for pound, has a side career as a congressman in the Philippines.

There's talk that one day he might be president in his homeland. Understandable, too, if only because he's the biggest sports hero the country has ever had; so popular that crime nearly stops there every time he gets into the ring.

But who would have thought that the little fighter who does things no other fighter has done could play a role in helping re-elect the majority leader of the US Senate?

Hard to believe anything you hear when it involves boxing, but this time promoter Bob Arum isn't just making it up.

"I think Manny has to get a lot of the credit for his help in electing Senator Harry Reid," Arum said on Wednesday.

Political pundits have yet to weigh in on the effect of Pacquiao's effort on behalf of Reid, a former boxer who survived a brutal race to beat Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada.

Listen to Arum, though, and Pacquiao's appearance at a Reid rally in Las Vegas a few days before the election was crucial in energising the city's sizable Filipino community and getting them out to vote.

Fighter. Politician. King maker. Is there anything Pacquiao can't do?

Sing, some might say. But Pacquiao proved them wrong on Monday night when he and comedian Will Ferrell teamed for a surprisingly good duet of John Lennon's Imagine on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," despite only a brief rehearsal.

Lennon wrote the song about world peace. Pacquiao makes his living in a world of violence.

Mainstream America will learn more about him Sunday night when "60 Minutes" profiles Pacquiao. The exposure is a promoter's dream and a boost to a sport that, as usual, is in desperate need of attention.

Six days later he'll step into the ring at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas to do what everyone expects him to do: beat Antonio Margarito and win yet another title to add to his already large collection.

Score one for the ability to multitask.

"Tell the fans nothing to worry about me," Pacquiao said. "The only worry is how we can give a good fight for the people who are going to watch."

That shouldn't be a problem since the only way either one knows how to fight is to move forward and attack. And no one questions Margarito's heart in the ring even if he is a disgraced fighter; still banned from boxing in California and Nevada because of a hand-wrapping scandal.

In a perfect world he would be fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr instead. But nothing is perfect in boxing, so Pacquiao, who began his professional career at 53kg, moves up in weight once again to fight Margarito at 68.

Arum's biggest task, other than getting Pacquiao to jet in to campaign for Reid, is to find a way to make the fight compelling enough to sell tickets at the stadium plus pay-per-view sales to guarantee Pacquiao his millions.

He has done so by teaming with HBO's "24/7" series for a campaign of his own centred on the theme that Pacquiao has been so busy that he hasn't trained properly for the fight.

Arum went to the Philippines a few weeks ago and reported Pacquiao looked "really bad" in sparring. Trainer Freddie Roach picked up the storyline last week by saying Pacquiao was having the worst training camp of his career.

Then, magically, all was well.

"Everything is on track now. We're 100 percent ready for this fight," Roach said. "Manny guaranteed me he won't disappoint me."

The people around Pacquiao better hope not. Though he makes big money every time he gets into the ring these days, Pacquiao will be risking a payday of $40 million or so that he could make some time next spring should he win and Mayweather finally agrees to fight him.

That's pressure, but there is always pressure on Pacquiao not to let down the people back home.

He represents them in the ring just as he represents them in congress and his stature is such that he missed a day of training last month so he could confer privately with the country's president.

There's a good chance Pacquiao will get another private audience with president Benigno Aquino when he returns home. By then he'll have stories to tell about his latest trip to America.

He may even tell the president the one about how he helped re-elect one of the most powerful men in America.