Manny Pacquiao: Politics As Usual

He’s not focused in training. He’s gotten lazy and is only at 80%. These are statements Manny Pacquiao has not only had to hear from media, but from members of his own camp going into Saturday’s showdown with the once-feared Antonio Margarito. It wouldn’t be without historical precedent. Fighters ranging from Sugar Ray Robinson to […]

He’s not focused in training. He’s gotten lazy and is only at 80%. These are statements Manny Pacquiao has not only had to hear from media, but from members of his own camp going into Saturday’s showdown with the once-feared Antonio Margarito. It wouldn’t be without historical precedent. Fighters ranging from Sugar Ray Robinson to Mike Tyson have experienced massive upsets to lesser fighters during their peak years. Pacquiao would simply be the latest great champion to underestimate an opponent.

But the Filipino superstar doesn’t plan on giving Margarito’s career renewed life. In fact, he’s striving to be the one who closes the book on it. In this exclusive interview, Manny Pacquiao reveals why politics and other outside ventures will never be his downfall in a boxing ring. We’ve been hearing for months about you being unfocused in camp. Once and for all, let everyone know your take on how you did.

Manny Pacquiao: You know, my camp has always been stable. I’ve never had any problems. My coach (Freddie Roach) and Alex Ariza have been saying there’s a lot of distractions and it’s the worst camp. I don’t agree; I think I had a great camp. I’ve had numerous commitments in the Philippines with congress and things. But I’ve done a good job managing my time. I think they say it’s the worst camp because they don’t like the Philippines, it isn’t their home. We know Margarito’s uppercuts are his main weapon. Are you going to keep the fight on the outside, or will you get into some infighting?

Pacquiao: A combination of both. My style is to move in and out, but inside I think I have the advantage on a bigger and taller fighter like Margarito. A lot of people think you’ll run over Margarito. How are you able to stay mentally up for this fight?

Pacquiao: Always expect a tough fight. Prior to the Mosley fight, he was the biggest welterweight in the world. I still think it will be a tough test for me. What are you more passionate about now, boxing or politics?

Pacquiao: You know, I would not be a politician if it wasn’t for my popularity in boxing. So yes, boxing is my first love, but I’m in politics to help my people and make a difference when I finish boxing. The Philippines has a history of political corruption. Even the last president, Gloria Arroyo, was mired in it. We’re just a few months in, but have you seen progress with the new regime under Benigno Aquino?

Pacquiao: Yes, the implementation of the new president is good, but it has to go deeper. It’s making sure that the people in the field actually provide and do things they need to do without corruption. It’s a good step forward, but it’s up to the congressmen, mayor and other local council members. But yes, the beginning groundwork is there. The Sarangani area of the Philippines is divided into seven municipalities. You live in the Kiamba section. Which municipality needs the most economic help at this time?

Pacquiao: The Glan area is a lot of our focus; it’s one of the municipalities. It’s where a lot of the guerilla fighters areas are, which we need to develop into a progressive movement. We want to give the people access to the market and other areas. We have to bring market growth with the flow of goods to the people. We’d like to promote things like us having the best white water rafting in the country. It hasn’t been developed and marketed the way it needs to be. My province is one of the only ones that doesn’t have a hospital. So my focus is to build a hospital for my province. Let’s switch gears to a social issue. Colourism affects a lot of ethnic minorities. In the Philippines, four out of every 10 Filipino women use skin-whitening creams. What can be done to combat these issues where darker Filipinos are being discriminated against and feeling shame for their own skin?

Pacquiao: I’m a very proud Filipino. Our color is something that gives us our identity. Our culture is similar to India and Pakistan, where they prefer the light skin. Everybody looks at America and Caucasian people as the ideal. Even in the Philippines everyone wants to come to America; they think it’s a great lifestyle. But I know everyone that does come here, wants to go back.

It’s a difficult to change how our society thinks. It’ll take centuries. My goal is to show even a Filipino like me that came from a province with no money, can end up on the cover to TIME magazine. You can be the best fighter in the world. Now, you’re willing to compromise on the blood testing. You weren’t as flexible earlier this year and walked away to take another fight. Do you regret not compromising during the first negotiations and fighting Joshua Clottey?

Pacquiao: [Pauses] Um, no. I feel like I don’t need Mayweather to make my career. I fought the best and anyone willing to face me. I want it, and feel the fans deserve the Mayweather fight. I want to prove to everyone that it wasn’t me who didn’t want the fight. That’s why I made the concession to take anything [blood tests] he wants at any time. Even during the fight before the sixth round if he wanted! What else can I do? I hope we get the fight done soon. Let’s get it on. A lot of this appears to be an ego clash. We gotten so much conflicting information from both sides. Do you feel that way as well?

Pacquiao: He’s the one that has to look at himself in the mirror at the end of the day. I want the fight. It’s not for fame, it’s because I have a responsibility to the fans that have made Manny Pacquiao who he is today. The Roman Catholic church has a huge influence in Filipino politics. Recently, we’ve seen the church become heavily against reproductive health matters like condoms and birth control. As a Roman Catholic yourself, do you think the church holds too much influence? Should there be a more distinct separation with church and state?

Pacquiao: I think it’s different for each nation. It depends on how progressive the country is. Our country relies heavily on the advice of the church. We’re a very Catholic nation, and a lot of our ideas come from the values of the church. We’re not as developed as the United States or England. So, the people need to have that structure for now. When we get more developed, then we can have the more progressive thinking where we can separate everything.

We have a lot of people that are illiterate and don’t have the capability for social welfare like other countries have. So it’s difficult to educate everybody. The church does a good job of separating itself to an extent, and presenting its values to the people. Even with the church and state separate, it’s up to the common sense and moral center of the individual. You had to experience your own parents separating when you were very young due to infidelity. As a big star, how have you been able to keep your family together and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen with you?

Pacquiao: Most of my time is spent with my kids before and after camp. My wife is with me with these times. It’s difficult to have dates in Manila, but we go out a lot in America, even for shopping. I know my career is high-profile, but I have to make sure my family is my main priority. Who were the best boxers and biggest punchers out of all the opponents you’ve faced?

Pacquiao: Erik Morales was a very good fighter. He could adapt and was very good. The biggest punchers would have to be De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto. You have a top five of your favorite all time boxers?

Pacquiao: I have Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya…and Manny Pacquiao! That last guy’s good, I like to watch me [chuckles]. Final thoughts for fans still on the fence about this fight?

Pacquiao: I want to thank them for all their support. I hope I can continue entertaining them on November 13 against Antonio Margarito. I promise a Manny Pacquiao classic. And thank you.

The wait is over. Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito square off tonight for the WBC junior-middleweight title from Dallas Stadium. The fight broadcast will start on HBO pay-per-view at 9 PM ET.

Ismael AbduSalaam is a senior staff writer for, and the creator of Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, a website specializing in boxing and Hip-Hop coverage.