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Thu May 17, 2012, 11:04 AM

Regarding Manny Pacquiao [View all]

When Manny Pacquiao's statement, in which he expressed his opposition to President Barack Obama's stance on marriage equality, is but another example of how boxing transcends sports, and serves as a measure of socio-political dynamics. Let's take a closer look at this situation.

In fact, Pacquiao is himself a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. His status as an elite athlete provided him with the platform he needed to win that office. He has won "titles" in eight divisions -- from Junior Flyweight to Junior Middleweight -- including four lineal ("real" world's titles. His most consistent theme in his government service has been helping to poor.

It is no secret that Pacquiao, after he retires from boxing, wants to run for the presidency of the Philippines. Recent controversial "tax issues" suggest that the powers-that-be in his country are not in favor of his accomplishing this. But his statement opposing President Obama's stance on marriage equality is a controversy of his own making.

None of Boxing's greatest fighters have had a socio-political influence on their own. Boxing, as heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston said in the early 1960s, is like a cowboy movie: there's got to be a good guy and a bad guy. That's what people pay to see -- the good guy beat the bad guy. That, of course, doesn't always happen.

When Jack Johnson, the first recognized black heavyweight champion, defended his title against former champion Jim Jeffries (who had retired undefeated), white America had identified Johnson as the bad guy. But he easily knocked Jeffries out.

When the great Joe Louis defended his title against Max Schmeling, it was viewed as America versus the Nazi Germany. Louis won by first round knockout, after fracturing Schmeling's spine with a vicious blow.

And when Muhammad Ali came out of the forced retirement (for refusing to be drafted) to challenge Joe Frazier, it was much more than two undefeated heavyweight champions meeting for the first time. Ali represented the anti-war, pro-civil rights population, and Frazier -- not by choice -- represented blue collar, white Nixon supporters. Frazier won a 15-round decision.

The man standing opposite of Manny Pacquiao is undefeated champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Outside of the boxing community, Manny has been viewed as a "Golden Boy" -- clean-cut, polite, and even charming in his attempts to become a recording artist. Floyd has largely been viewed as the "bad guy" -- indeed, he is scheduled to begin a three-month jail term for domestic violence in June.

When Senator Barack Obama was running for president, he wanted to appear publicly with Floyd Mayweather. However, his advisors rejected the idea, because of Floyd's public image. Manny Pacquiao would visit President Obama at the White House, in a move that got a lot of media attention. More recently, President Obama got together with Floyd, without media coverage.

The boxing community views the pair very differently than does the American general public. We are aware that Floyd comes from a family in which two of the most important people in his life -- his father and Uncle Roger -- have histories of domestic violence. (Also, when Floyd was about five years old, his father held him in front of himself, for protection from the gun that an associate in crime was pointing at him.) Floyd has had problems in this area, too. Domestic violence is something that the boxing community strongly disapproves of, and wants Floyd to be held accountable for. We also know that people who commit domestic violence can change.

We view Pacquiao differently than does the general public, too. There is a controversy about drug-testing that derailed the first scheduled PacMan vs Money Mayweather bout. In January of 2010, ESPN's Teddy Atlas reported live, on the Friday Night Fights, about two e-mails that the a Pacquiao representative sent to the Mayweather camp: the first asked how large a fine they would demand when Manny failed the tests; the second asked if they would agree to keep it secret "for the good of boxing."

Steroids and related performance-enhancing drugs are a growing problem in boxing, as they are in other sports. But there is an important distinction. It's not just that Manny had a suspicious "growth streak," in which his endurance increased as dramtically as the size of his head. Or that he came out of nowhere to break Henry Armstrong's hard-earned record. A baseball player may break the home-run record by cheating; but in boxing, one risks serious injury (or death) when the opponent cheats.

Pacquiao's position against marriage equality may cement his popularity among the hate crowd. But Floyd's response to the controversy may suprise others, and perhaps gain him wider support:

"I stand behind President Obama and support gay marriage. I'm an American citizen, and I believe people should live their life the way they want." -- Floyd Mayweather; May 16, 2012

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H2O Man May 2012 OP
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