pop goes the world: boxing, bishops, and balls

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  17 November 2011, Thursday

Boxing, Bishops, and Balls

Exactly a year ago, my column was about how world champion boxer and Sarangani congressman Manny Pacquiao fashioned a decisive victory over Antonio Margarito of Mexico. “[Manny’s] masterful control of the prizefight…impressed the denizens of spectators at the Texas venue and all around the world,” I said.

“Manny…[drowned] Margarito under a barrage of blows to the kisser and [quenched] the fire of his long-armed jabs,” I added.

“[A Los Angeles-based Filipino friend told me], “Even the Mexicans at the sportsbar where we viewed it cheered for Pacquiao.” It’s great to hear about them cheering for the Pinoy Mexicutioner. It’s obvious they know a great thing when they see it,” I concluded.

I can’t echo these sentiments after Pacman’s recent lackluster showing against Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas. It was their third encounter. JuanMa (also from Mexico) put up a spectacular fight, and improved in relation to their previous two matches. Clearly he had been studying Pacquiao’s strengths and weaknesses and developed a corresponding strategy.

Poster here.

It took twelve grueling rounds before the fight ended, with Pacquiao the winner by majority. It was a decision booed by the Mexicans in the crowd. JuanMa was crushed; he believed himself the winner. Pacquiao stood his ground, acknowledging that “expectations” were not met, but reiterating that he was still the declared winner.

The mood turned dangerous; my US-based cousin Ivy, who watched the event and was billeted at the MGM Grand, says that extra security personnel were called in immediately after the fight to quell quarrels. “The Mexicans were threatening the Filipinos,” she said.

(She also reported that at 3:30am the next day, actor Dingdong Dantes was escorted by “a bunch of security people” from the MGM casino floor for being rowdy. Fights, apparently, were breaking out of the ring, as well as in.)

Let’s not even go into the merits and demerits of the fight. Let’s leave that to the boxing writers and analysts. But even Filipinos, for all their gung-ho partisanship, sensed something amiss, that the outcome was not as honorable as they were used to from the Pambansang Kamao.

Manny, however, had been having an off week. He had leg cramps, he said, and other physical problems. In addtion, for him the drama had not begun in the ring. No, it commenced before that, when Manny and his wife Jinkee, described by a report as looking “sullen” when she arrived in LA, had a screaming match in their room the eve of the event, allegedly hurling their cellphones at each other.

Jinkee Pacquiao at the weigh-in before the fight. Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images here.

It’s never a good thing for sports when there’s a domestic undercard on the eve of the game. I should know. I was married to a professional athlete for eleven years.  Disputes were for after the race, lest the negative vibes jinx the result and the loss be attributed to you, the shrewish and nagging wife.

Drama also came from other actors. Retired Catholic archbishop Oscar Cruz, perhaps fretful that the spotlight was off him and his “exposes” of this and that social ill, weighed in to say that “The Church accepts the fact that there’s boxing, but it does not endorse, much less promote it, because of the physical violence in the venture…[the broadcasting of the fight] is indirectly promoting physical violence.”

Never mind that it’s one of the sports in which Filipinos can excel. Never mind that Manny’s exploits are a source of national pride. Never mind that crime drops significantly, some even say to zero, on Pacman fight days.

And never mind that Congressman Pacquiao is fanatically and irrationally on the side of the Catholic Church on the reproductive health bill. The good bishop couldn’t even give one of their staunchest champions a break.

What really causes a person to become violent? Certainly what a person sees in media will have some influence over his attitudes and behavior.

But can we really say that watching bloodsport like boxing and cockfighting cause people to be violent? They said the same thing about the robot cartoons back in the late 1970s. Remember Voltes V, Daimos, Mazinger Z, and the rest of the mecha animes of our youth? Are we as a generation more violent as a result of watching them?

Many psychological studies have shown that it is child abuse that leads to violence and the tendency toward sexual predation in adults. Before the Church condemns boxing, it should first condemn the sexual molestation of minors that occurred in its bailiwicks across the decades and around the world.

Pacquiao’s own bishop, the Diocese of Marbel’s Dinualdo Gutierrez, had urged the prizefighter to retire from the ring.

“He just said ‘Opo,’” said Gutierrez about Pacquiao. “He was just saying ‘Go ahead. You have your (way), I have my own (way).” Isn’t that how people often rationalize their behavior when they go against the church or other authority? That includes the issue of birth control, which many Filipino Catholics use in defiance of church doctrine, because they are the ones raising the children, not the childless priests and nuns.

Bishop Gutierrez was asked about the prestige Pacquiao has earned for the country. His reply: ”The end does not justify the means. You can go into drugs, gun smuggling, prostitution…. The end does not justify the means.”

We’re talking about boxing. It is an internationally recognized sport. None of the fighters are coerced to enter the profession; they step into that ring of their own free will. It does not equate at all with drugs, gun smuggling, and prostitution, which are criminal activities.

You have to wonder where these bishops are coming from with their arguments. Chalk it up to age and creeping brain cell decline? Manny should seriously consider dropping his anti-RH bill stance; tutal, laglagan na.

The bishops do have balls, though. As does Jinkee Pacquiao, raising hell with Manny before fight night. Manny and JuanMa – that’s a given.

And for our final testicular reference, we have to admire the balls of former president and current congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who pledged to cut off one of his balls should his client not return from her requested medical leave abroad.

We wonder, why just one ball? Why not two – did Atty. Topacio calculate that there is still a risk that Arroyo will not return, thereby leaving him with one ball for future procreative purposes?

Manny, though, has laid both his on the line, offering to meet JuanMa one more time to decide things once and for all. We’re also sure that whatever the issue, our good bishops will also be regaling the Filipino populace, whether Catholic or not, with their say, whether solicited or not.  *** 

Rallyist with Pacman tarp here. Daimos poster here. Atty. Topacio screenshot here.

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