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Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Filipino icon, 'PacMan' Pacquiao has fans everywhere

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For years, Manny Pacquiao has possessed the ability to paralyze a nation, to freeze 96 million Filipino citizens and hypnotize them with every punch.

Yet, his influence grows. He forced Oscar de la Hoya to quit. He destroyed Ricky Hatton in two short rounds. He systematically dismantled Miguel Cotto.

On Saturday, the fighter regarded as the best pound-for-pound in the world returns to the ring against Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium to defend the WBO world welterweight title.

The Philippine Islands make up only a portion of the Pacquiao universe. "I am expecting a lot of Mexican fans to be at the fight," Pacquiao said during a teleconference.

Pacquiao, 31, reigns as the boxer of this generation, dabbles as a singer, aspires to be a political candidate and continues to grow in popularity, whether with Mexican fight fans or the late-night television crowd.

Boxing society has evolved to a point where race doesn't matter as much as the individual fighter's ability to induce a thumping heartbeat and uncontrollable screams pleading for a knockout.

"PacMan" provides just this with fists that fly like uninhibited falcons, feet that glide like a marble on ice and a willingness to fight as if he wore an invulnerability cape.

Fort Worth boxing trainer Vincent Reyes serves as an integral part of both the Mexican community and the local boxing scene.

"He's beat the top Mexican fighters and the Mexican fans like a crowd pleaser," Reyes said. "He's certainly a crowd pleaser. He's not boring. The Mexican fans want action and that's what he gives."

George Rincon holds a Texas State Golden Gloves championship and at 18 sits fully entrenched in pop culture awareness. The Hispanic fighter and his father both appreciate the pure fighting skills Pacquiao exhibits and consider him the fighter of this generation.

In fact, the boxing community thought it laughable that Tiger Woods, a golfer, was named the "athlete" of the decade. The notion that someone in a non-contact sport, who demands complete quiet, doesn't worry about opposition hindering his efforts and walks during his competition is simply ridiculous.

"I believe in boxing you have to be tough," Rincon said. "When you say you are a boxer, that's saying a lot. When you say you are a boxer, you are a true athlete."

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum said having Hispanic fighters on Saturday's undercard helps sell the bout locally. However, he suggested the Mexican population has embraced Pacquiao because of his accomplishments. Pacquiao became the first fighter in history to win seven world titles in seven weight classes.

"Our goal when we started with Manny was to break him out from the Filipino base that he had," Arum said. "We were able to pick up millions of Hispanic fans and we have broken him into the general conscience of the people around the world.

"He is truly a crossover star. How many fighters of our time go on Jimmy Kimmel Live and go on Good Morning America and have a big article coming out in Time magazine? I think that is saying something."

Something else to be said is that Pacquiao plans to run for Congress in the Philippines with campaigning beginning on March 26.

If he wins, it certainly will force him to split time between political service and jumping rope, working the speed bag and knocking people out.

"After the fight I will go back to the Philippines and start campaigning," Pacquiao said. "It is going to be busy. I want to pass some bills that will be good for the livelihood of the people there and education for the children."

As for Rincon, he'll continue to support/emulate Pacquiao as long as his career lasts.

"He has speed and power, good defense and offense and he's very aggressive," Rincon said. "He has been beating the top Hispanic fighters and to me it doesn't matter. It's not about his race."



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