We now live in a world where the best boxer in the world is also a congressman. Although it’s not 100 percent official, pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao has claimed to win a seat in the Philippines by a “landslide,” a remarkable feat for a remarkable man who’s lived a remarkable life.
It’s not that service in a legislative body precludes violence. In Taiwan, the legislature is prone to regular combat, and our own U.S. Senate once played host to an ass-whooping of epic stature (Preston Brooks vs. Charles Sumner, depicted above). But it’s a unique feat, for a sitting congressman to be oh so very good — better, truthfully, than anyone alive — at punching people.
We’re in uncharted territory in more ways than one. Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather has its own history to make, as the most important fight in the last 20 or even 30 years. Already an actor, singer and businessman, among other jobs, Pacquiao appears likely to serve simultaneously in the Philippines House and between the ring ropes. Congress won’t get in the way of Pacquiao continuing his pugilistic career, if his promoter Bob Arum is to believed. Pacquiao’s skittish mother actually poses more of a threat.
So what does Pacquiao’s electoral victory mean for the sport of boxing? We can only speculate, extrapolating from what Pacquiao and his team have said publicly.
All of this presumes that Pacquiao’s claim of victory isn’t premature. While independent reporting suggests he is on course to win, funny things have happened in campaigns in the Philippines; allegations of corruption are routine. If all the indicators are correct, though, it’s one of the most improbable wins in an improbable story. Pacquiao has in recent years been the little guy moving up boxing’s weight classes to fight the big guy. This time he went up against a powerful political family in his native land to avenge a 2007 electoral defeat, in a campaign where he started as the heavy underdog.
Arum said beforehand that Pacquiao would fight again in November, electoral win or electoral loss. Pacquiao also had been talking about retiring after one more fight before retiring, separate from the elections. And the talk for that fight had included Mayweather as a potential opponent, along with a backup plan or two.
Now that he’s won, let’s see if he actually fights in November. It’s easy to imagine Pacquiao getting caught up in his many new responsibilities and demands. Ask any elected politician how much free time he or she has. The Philippines Congress is effectively in session year-round; I’m no student of Philippines politics, but it doesn’t sound like a U.S. state legislature that sometimes is only in town for a few months out of the year. (And even those lawmakers are still working year-round, one way or the other.)
I don’t imagine the political consequences of Pacquiao taking a match while missing a few votes in Congress would be the kind of thing to prevent Pacquiao from fighting, so I doubt that becomes an impediment. Filipinos have long reportedly thought Pacquiao could do more for them in the boxing ring, given the pride he brings the country and the money he makes for charitable endeavors, than he could in government. Evidently they’ve decided he can do both now, but it’s hard to conceive voters holding it against him if he missed some votes to fight for Pinoy pride.
As for one more fight before retiring — boxers say that kind of thing all the time. It’s impossible to know when to believe anyone. That said, there are good reasons to believe Pacquiao in this case. It sounds preposterous, the idea of someone being a fightin’ congressman for very long. Plus, as I mentioned, his mother has gotten very vocal about wanting him to quit. It’s possible Pacquiao could retire fairly soon, even before fighting again.
As much as Pacquiao has said he wants to fight Mayweather, I do wonder whether his new job will give him disincentive to go through with it. Pacquiao and Mayweather are stubborn negotiators, as we’ve all learned from things falling apart the first time over a few days difference on when blood testing would be conducted. Mayweather’s stance on blood testing isn’t going away, nor is Pacquiao’s resistance to it, plus Mayweather may be able to boast of the bigger recent pay-per-view numbers, which could make the purse split difficult. Add in this potential element, as another complicator: “I’m a congressman now, I don’t need to fight anyone, so I’m not going to do this on anyone’s terms but mine.” I’d like it if this wasn’t a complicator, of course. I’d like it if he found a compromise with Mayweather, rather than finding a way not to strike a deal.
Without Mayweather, Pacquiao might fight the likes of Antonio Margarito, a popular Mexican welterweight who fell out of favor with many boxing fans after he got caught with loaded gloves before a 2009 bout. We’d be talking about one of the most anticlimactic endings in history to a monumental boxing career, for Pacquiao to go from retiring following one of the biggest fights of all time to retiring following a sleazy fight against a disgraced opponent.
For the sake of speculation, let’s say Mayweather-Pacquiao does get made. It’s not a bad sign, at least, that talks could begin this week. Relatedly, there will be questions about whether Pacquiao’s gig as a solon will be a distraction in preparing for his most difficult opponent in the boxing ring ever. Pacquiao has proven time and again that he isn’t bothered by distractions. More like he thrives on the chaos. This is a whole different level of chaos, though. Not to beat the point to death, but seriously — being an elected politician is a massively demanding job, in terms of both time and stress. If ever a distraction is too much for Pacquiao to handle, this is it. Although I’ve said that in the past, too, about other distractions.
One thing’s for sure, if the fight does get signed: The fightin’ congressman angle surely becomes a huge aspect of the promotion, making it bigger still. Already, reporters have been traveling to the Philippines in droves to cover this fascinating tale. HBO’s 24/7 documentary series wouldn’t be able to shut up about the storyline, and it would generate headlines and interest like crazy.
There are gobs and gobs of potential danger ahead before we get to that point. If Pacquiao’s electoral victory derails Mayweather-Pacquaio one way or the other, I’ll be bitter at the voters who elected Pacquiao, for my own selfish reasons as a boxing fan. But if the realities of being a fightin’ congressman don’t get in the way, it will make the history-in-the-making of Mayweather-Pacquiao so much the richer.
Congratulations, Manny Pacquiao. Best of luck. One way or the other, we’re all counting on you — not just the constituents who count on you more now than they did yesterday.