Manny Pacquiao might not be anybody’s pound-for-pound champion anymore, but he still holds a mythical title with a precarious power that can alter an identity as surely as a big punch can re-arrange a face. Being a People’s Champ isn’t easy. From Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali, it never has been.
In this era of internet-driven celebrity, however, it’s probably more difficult than ever. By definition, a People’s Champ has always been public property. But email, Twitter and blog posts are the digital megaphones that have given all of the champ’s people an unprecedented say-so about what the title is and who the champ should be.
Their definitions for the job rival the many roles Pacquiao has played in his varied life as a Filipino congressman, soldier, populist, philanthropist, puncher, peacemaker, preacher, gambler, singer, basketball player, actor, businessman, butcher, baker and candlestick maker. If boxing has ever had a Renaissance Man, he’s it. He’s done a whole lot, and his unflagging energy says he wants to do even more. Even President of the Philippines has been mentioned. In part, it’s what makes him so likable. There’s an everyman kind of appeal in Pacquiao, perhaps because he’s done it all.
But danger lurks in his willingness to be everything to everybody. Pacquiao has become a lot of things. But is he the fighter we remember? Just who the heck is he anymore? It’s a question, a potential identity crisis, which many believe he’ll have to answer in a significant rematch with Tim Bradley on April 12 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.
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