Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Open Letter: Manny Pacquiao – Floyd Mayweather, JR

Since becoming a Feature Writer on RSR, I have come to learn and appreciate the wave of Filipino boxers that are making their way through the boxing ranks, holding titles in the various weight classes. It’s in Manny Pacquiao’s journey that I completely respect as an athlete and an individual.

As I’ve stated that I’m a Filipino flag waver, I’ve been on a personal journey right along with Pacquiao and the up and coming fighters. I’m rooting for success, while at the same time, worried that in the desire and drive to succeed, may push them to develop too quickly. And, for the fighters coming from the Philippines, fighting in the United States or even outside of their homeland, Filipino boxers will have a special place in my heart.

As the negotiations for Pacquiao – Mayweather continue for a potential matchup on March 13, 2010, I’d like to take a look at one boxer in particular from the 1930’s. Does the name Ceferino “The Bolo Puncher” Garcia sound familiar?

Imagine this: It’s October 1939. In New York’s Madison Square Garden, 12,000 boxing fans are gathered together to watch the fight for the American Middleweight Championship Crown. Yes, modern readers – a Filipino Middleweight – Ceferino “the Bolo Puncher” Garcia weighed in at 153-3/4 pounds to fight reigning champ Fred “The Boxing Bell Hop” Apostoli favored at 5 to 8 and weighing in at 160 pounds.

It’s a scheduled bout of 15 rounds. According to the reports, “Garcia’s bolo punch – a powerful right uppercut, affected Apostoli in the first round – a bolo punch to the chin, quickly followed by a left-right combination, sent an already-dazed Apostoli to his knees for a count of two. Apostoli got up, but Garcia’s straight swift straight hand and left hook knocked him down again, this time for a count of nine. By the fourth round, Garcia had inflicted a bleeding gash under the defending champ’s chin, while Apostoli cut Garcia near the right eye with a left hook in the fifth round.

By the sixth round, Garcia was leading Apostoli on competition points, winning four of the rounds. Two minutes and seven seconds into the seventh round, it was all over. After a series of well-placed bolo punches to Apostoli’s jaw and head, the bleeding badly beat champion went down for the third time, slowly sinking his forehead onto the canvas. Standing over Apostoli’s collapsed body, referee Billy Cavanaugh began the count and then spread both arms to signal the end of Apostoli’s reign. Lifting Garcia’s arm, Cavanaugh proclaimed “the new middleweight champion.” (New York Times and Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1939; as taken from “Prizefighting, Masculinity, and the Sporting Life” by Linda Espana-Maram)

There are two things I’d like to point out about the Garcia bout and hopefully we have learned since 1939. First, under the charge of George Parnassus, Garcia slowly rose through the boxing ranks and worked on the sweet science to become a better boxer (as revealed through his 102 bouts) Garcia weighed in at 154 pounds and stood 5’6. Second, Garcia had to take the fight in New York due to Mike Jacobs, the influential boxing promoter of the 1930’s. It was no small surprise that Garcia had an extremely popular following, primarily among the many Filipino laborers up and down the West coast.

Why did the fight take place in New York?

In this small nugget of a history remembered, Manny Pacquiao has the good fortune to pick the fight he wants. As of yesterday, when it was announced that promoter Bob Arum was on his way to talk to Pacquiao about the potential March 13, 2010, fight with Mayweather or whether Arum went to talk about Pacquiao’s political ambitions back in the Philippines, I’d say it’s about time. Bob Arum should be going to Pacquiao.

Mayweather should be fighting someone else first before Pacquiao. Pacquiao should set the conditions of the fight because he is the draw. Mayweather is crazy to think that the fight is about him – although recent reports have indicated he may need a little bit of cash to pay off some debt – but again, those are just reports.

Now, the point to all this, in reflection of Ceferino Garcia and the current Pacquiao-Mayweather situation, and my own personal journey, it’s simply that it’s important to remember where you come from and what you’ve accomplished. It’s the main reason why I don’t want to see Pacquiao fight Mayweather – not for fear of his losing, but that he really doesn’t need to take the fight. There is nothing wrong for Pacquiao to take whatever fight he chooses. I am naïve to a degree, and I know, money talks and it seems to be foremost on everyone’s lips to make this fight happen.

Even more importantly, when the bout does occur, Pacquiao has hands down (no pun intended) deserves and should set the terms of the fight for his own benefit. Pacquiao has earned that right and has gained international success due to his hard work up the various weight ranks and having the right people watching his back. There has been a constant argument as to the venue – Las Vegas, the Cowboys Stadium, and New Jersey – whatever and wherever, I’d love to see Pacquiao fight in his home country – back in the Philippines.

It’s a return and a respect that Pacquiao has earned. And, it forces everyone to go to him.

So, as Pacquiao – Mayweather unravels by the minute, I’d offer that in the 70 years since Garcia’s time back in 1939, it’s really Pacquiao’s time to shine and set the standard for the Filipino boxers. This time around Pacquiao will determines what’s best for himself as a fighter, but also as a man and athlete at the top of his sport. Regardless of whether he decides to take the fight and money may always seem to speak, you really can’t put a price on respect and honor.

Manny Pacquiao will always have both – whether or not he fights Mayweather.

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