Michael Rosenthal

Pacquiao dreamed of helping the poor even when he had nothing himself


Manny Pacquaio was greeted by hundreds of screaming fans and members of the media upon his arrival Tuesday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he'll face Shane Mosley on Saturday night.


LAS VEGAS – The story has been told many times now, how Manny Pacquiao left home as a young teenager and lived on the streets of Manila after his father ate the family dog.

Pacquiao, who sometimes slept in cardboard boxes, bought donuts and then sold them for a bit more than his purchase price to survive. On some days, he said, he didn’t have money to eat at all.

Even in these dire circumstances, around the time he turned pro in 1995, Pacquiao said he was inclined to help others even if he didn’t know that might be possible. He could never have predicted his success in boxing and had no thoughts about becoming a politician.

“When I started fighting … every time I saw poor people in the street, I was kind of thinking, ‘I hope that I can help them. I hope I can give them food.' I wasn’t thinking about entering politics but it was my dream," said Pacquiao, who had just made his formal arrival at the MGM Grand for his fight against Shane Mosley on Saturday.

“I hoped to help them. … I was just thinking, imaging that I could help them. I could feel what they were feeling because I’ve been there.”

As we know, Pacquiao’s dream came true.

The boxing superstar is known to be generous to a fault, regularly giving money to anyone in need. Those close to him fear he’ll give away everything he has.

Pacquiao also put him in a position to help his people on a larger scale, as a congressman from his home region of Sarangani.

For example, he has been working with U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada about a bill he hopes will open the American market to garments produced in the Philippines.

“A lot of garments go from China to America,” he said. “We want like a small percentage from the Philippines. Then we can give a lot of jobs to the (Filipino) people.”

Life is amazing, huh? A hungry, dirt-poor kid living on the streets of a Third World city blindly wishes he could help other poor people and it becomes reality.

Pacquiao doesn’t hesitate to attribute that remarkable fact to the one who he believes is responsible.

“My faith in God is always there,” he said. “… All the things I have right now I have from God. If you believe in him, you can be a success like me.”

Role models: Pacquiao remembers as a young fighter watching video tapes of his favorite fighters.

Who were they? A fearsome foursome: Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr.

What was it about these fighters that impressed him?

“I liked the speed and power of Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard,” he said. “I liked the timing, in inside body shots of Julio Cesar Chavez. “

Pacquiao demonstrated the bolo punch Leonard used against Roberto Duran and in other fights, obviously impressed with the Hall of Famer's flamboyance. He was asked whether he ever did that.

“Yes, before, when I was fighting in the Philippines,” he said.

Pacquiao was asked to name his favorite active fighters. He thought about it for a moment but couldn't come up with any names.

"No one compares to Chavez, De La Hoya, Leonard and Jones," he said.

No Pacquiao children in boxing: Pacquiao loves the sport, which is one reason he has been so successful.

He doesn’t want his own children to box, though. The life of a boxer, he said, is too demanding.

“I tell my kids I don’t want them to box,” he said. “… Boxing isn’t easy. It’s hard. You can’t predict if they’ll be like me, follow in my steps. Boxing is too hard. The training, preparing yourself, disciplining yourself, in the fight.”

The diplomat: Pacquiao was asked whether he was surprised by anything during his meeting with President Obama in February at the White House.

“He was tall,” said Pacquiao, who is 5-foot-6 on a good day. “Six-4, six-3.”

Someone then pointed out that both the world’s No. 1 fighter and the American president like to play basketball and asked Pacquiao who he thought would win one on one.

He paused, clearly determined to say the right thing, and then said …

“He’s tall.”

More Obama: Pacquiao said he invited Obama to come to Las Vegas to see his fight against Mosley live.

“He said he was going to watch but on pay per view,” Pacquiao said.

One more Obama: Pacquiao was asked what he thought about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

“It was a good accomplishment for Obama,” he said.

Manny being Manny: Pacquiao demonstrated in a very simple way that he has no sense of entitlement in spite of his success.

He made his way through an adoring crowd to a VIP room at the MGM Grand to speak with a small group of reporters. He say down and looked at about a dozen bottles of water on a table.

“Can I have one of those?” he asked.

Can I have one of those? Manny Pacquiao? Superstar boxer? International celebrity? A millionaire many times over?

Manny being Manny.

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