Pacquiao, Ali, Beltran and Greatness

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 June) — Lo and behold, I saw a glimpse of greatness…

I would admit that I am an avid fan of Manny Pacquiao.  Although I am not as rabid as the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran was, I have seen almost all of Manny’s fights.

As a teenager, I would sneak out of my room to see if the now-defunct late night boxing program “Blow by Blow” was featuring a Manny Pacquiao fight.  At the time he was still the lanky teenager with a whale of a wallop and was just figuring himself into becoming a phenomenon.

I would admire his daredevil ways which my childhood buddies would describe as “murag rambol sa Bankerohan.”  He has gone a long way since then, dropping foes, left and right, with his brute strength.  He has also developed a ring savvy most people thought he never had in him and has become a ring technician.   He is so exciting to watch in his fights that even the discriminating American audience has come to love him.

While he is so great in the boxing ring, I have never come to love him off it.  This would be maybe because of his choice of the people that surround him.  It could also be due to his other involvements which are not so appealing to the palate.

I could still vividly remember how I asked the media bureau of Anakpawis Partylist Southern Mindanao during the election campaign of 2007 to issue Pacquiao a challenge.  I was so disgusted by the way that Gloria Arroyo has used him for the former’s political dirty tactics.    Although it never came into fruition, the supposed piece would have asked Pacquiao to emulate Muhammad Ali if he wants to become really and truly great.

Ali’s greatness did not only come from the accolades that he got from his crusades on the canvass floor.  Ali fought for civil rights alongside Malcolm X and the other civil libertarians.  Ali never conformed to the conventions prescribed by the powers-that-be of American society.  He refused to become an instrument of imperialist plunder by not allowing himself to wear the American soldiers’ uniform.  He was incarcerated for a couple of years for his refusal to serve in the United States Army in its war of aggression against the Vietnamese people in the mid 1960s.  “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” Ali once said.

While Ali was definitely a loudmouth, he was able to maximize his prominence in his sport as a platform to advance his people’s interests.  He became a champion for the colored peoples’ struggle for civil liberties and human rights.  He never forgot where he came from.

I have always wanted to see Pacquiao to be like that.  I have always wanted him to be the real people’s champ.  He, of proletarian origins and with the influence that he’s got right now, he can do a lot for the cause of the working class and the peasantry.
And just a few days ago, that wish would suddenly be granted.  It was all over the social networking sites.  In a press conference, Pacquiao posed alongside with my former colleagues in the Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis Partylist Representative Rafael Mariano, wearing a pair of red boxing gloves with a slogan calling for “125 Wage Hike Now.”

Like a seasoned trade unionist, he parried capitalists’ right hooks of wage-price spiral,  “Lagi namang panakot sa mga manggagawa yan.  Pero kailangan natin pakita na pinapahalagahan natin sila, kasi importante ang mga nagtratrabaho sa pag-unlad ng buong bayan.”
If only Ka Bel were around right now, he would have been the happiest man to have Pacquiao fight this fight alongside him.  Our dear Crispin Beltran, a former boxer himself, a Congressional Hall of Famer and a genuine working class hero, had kept for himself a collection of CDs and DVDs of Pacquiao’s fights.
It is really heartwarming to see his boxing idol carry on his fight.  It is still a long way to go for Pacquiao, but for stepping right out of his comfort zone and giving back to his class origin, he has now taken a step towards real greatness. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Omar Bantayan is a former labor leader and street parliamentarian who is now preoccupied with trying to make ends meet)