Floyd Mayweather Jr. said during a recent interview that he had enough power to have President Barack Obama carry his title belt into the ring if he ever faced Manny Pacquiao.
But it is Pacquiao who, on Feb. 15, of last year, actually met Obama and First Lady, Michele Obama, during a White House luncheon with his own wife, Jinkee.
In fact, the fighting Filipino congressman’s pre-luncheon presence outside of the White House led rubber-necking and photo-taking drivers to cause a three-car accident at the intersection of State and 17th streets.
Pacquiao still is turning heads, as evidenced by his being listed at No. 4 by Forbes.com among America’s Top 10 most influential athletes.
Pacquiao is listed behind Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, and ahead of the New England Patriots’ QB Tom Brady.
NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson tops the list, followed by former Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow, who is now with the New York Jets. New York Knicks guard, Jeremy Lin, is listed at No.10.
“This is my first time hearing it. It’s good,” Top Rank Promoter, Bob Arum, said of Pacquiao, who was told by Obama that he was “pulling” for Pacquiao in advance of an eventual unanimous decision over Shane Mosley in May of last year.
“It’s great. It’s well-deserved. Manny Pacquiao is one of the mosts influential athletes in the world. I’ve never promoted anyone like him.”
A cross-over star who was born into poverty, Pacquiao left a family that could no longer afford to feed him and spent homeless nights sleeping outside and days scrounging for food.
And since being elected to congressional office in the Sarangani Province of his native Philippines in May of 2010, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has contended that Pacquiao’s politics and his love for his countrymen will be what drags him into retirement and out of boxing.
Two weeks prior to defeating Antonio Margarito for the WBC’s junior middleweight belt in November of 2010, for example, Pacquiao attended a rally for United States Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who credited him with bolstering support for his re-election.
“Manny Pacquiao and I came from different parts of the world, but we came on the same side of the street,” Reid said at the time of Pacquiao, who was interviewed by 60 Minutes for a feature which aired a week prior to his victory over Margarito.
“Manny fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. It’s not enough to fight yourself. It’s not enough to want to be a champion. We want to be champions for others.”
A winner of eight title belts over the course of as many divisions, Pacquiao was once named among Time Magazine’s Top 25 People Who Mattered in 2009 — listed alphabetically right behind Obama in December of that year.
“There is a big difference in being a professional fighter and being a congressman. As a boxer I have more individual control when it comes to achieving my goals. I train hard, I do my homework and I fight to the best of my abilities with only one obstacle in my way: my opponent,” said Pacquiao, during an interview with RingTV.com in October.
“As a Congressman, the pace is slower and more measured because of the nature of government. That is by design to provoke thought and debate so that hopefully the best solution to the problems of the nation and the provinces we represent are met in the best possible way. It takes patience and it takes cooperation.”
Pacquiao takes a 15-bout winning streak that includes eight stoppages into the June 9 defense of his WBO welterweight belt against WBO junior welterweight titleholder, Tim Bradley, and has been named Fighter of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010, as well as Fighter of the Decade.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com