GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 Nov) – In journalism parlance, red flags are warning signs.

Manny Pacquiao’s “uncomfortable victory” over Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez certainly points to ominous writings on the wall for the Filipino boxing icon.

At this point, there is no telling if Pacquiao’s popularity has already reached a point where there is no other way but down.

Performances that leave doubts to his ability to rampage over opponents will surely take their toll on his popularity as a rallying figure of the Filipino people, both as a world class athlete and a rising politician.

The Filipino people, judging by the debate generated by his not-so-popular win over Marquez, were divided for the first time last Sunday. Maybe not equally divided but a line was clearly drawn inside the house.

At this stage of his boxing career, Pacquiao is coming to the realization that, at one point or another, he will lose not only a step. He will soon find himself at the receiving end of punishments atop the ring either by his own doing or coming off another fresh, younger and stronger challenger if he stays longer than he should in the sports.

For all the knockouts he had recorded over the course of his 59 professional fights, he also absorbed a lot of punishments. The many sparring sessions he had to log to keep himself in top condition as he gears up for a fight are as punishing, maybe even more, than the actual fight themselves. These are the wear and tear factors that many boxing fans often conveniently forget or gloss over.

Manny is an epitome of a world class athlete when in the thick of training. But he also indulges in some splurges that will eventually take their toll on his physical well being.

Boxing is a cruel contact sports that can turn even the sturdiest fighter into an ageing warrior overnight.

Pacquiao is far from being one, for now. He may still be the same fearsome brawler-turn-finesse-fighter three or four fights down the road. But the bells are now tolling. He will have to decide soon when to put a stop to the beatings he had to absorb to secure a victory satisfying to his fans, a one standard he has set so high that a narrow decision win is actually viewed as a loss.

The same may be said of his political stock. For as long as he keeps winning, Pacquiao will continue to tickle the imagination of the Filipino people. He is a rallying figure for majority of poverty-stricken Filipinos. For many, Pacquiao is the hope majority of the Filipinos never even had.

But once he loses his luster as a prime fighter, many will nitpick on his frailties and vulnerabilities. The many untold stories about his personal life will no longer be glossed over by the accolades he is now getting atop the ring.

Pacquiao needs to bounce back from the third episode of his rivalry with Marquez with a satisfying and convincing win in his next fight. Whoever it may be that Top Rank and Team Pacquiao choose. In fact, he needs to keep winning until he decides to finally retire from boxing.

He needs to leave behind a legacy of winning before he finally goes for a national elective post by the time he is eligible, either in 2016 or in 2022.

He needs to feed on the cult persona he has built over the years of his boxing conquest.

But most of all, he also needs to clean the house of hangers-on, sycophants, freeloaders and opportunists.

Because like it or not, these will be the same people who will eventually destroy the house that Pacquiao built. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin G. Espejo writes for