So one shouldn’t really cry for Manny Pacquiao. After all, both Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn are professional athletes. They make money whether they win or lose. In fact, despite losing the bout, Pacquiao will take home far more money than Horn. According to the Bleacher Report Horn is guaranteed just $500,000 from the bout while Pacquiao earned $10 million. This is because Pacquiao is already an international star and, between the two fighters, pulled in the audience for this bout.Still, $10 million is dwarfed by the larger paycheques he earned from fights while he was at the prime of his career. Age, of course, progressively eroded his celebrity and fighting form, but it was the infamous anti-gay rants he let loose in 2016 that really did him in. His profile as an international celebrity took a big hit as a result of that debacle. So bad was his fall from grace following that lapse in judgement that he lost 2 million followers on Twitter.
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Interestingly, Pacquiao continues to be idolised by millions of Filipinos. Indeed, the controversy surrounding the outcome of the fight will likely be the subject of frenzied debate over the coming weeks. The “unanimous” win decision of the judges in favour of Horn came as a surprise to many who believe Pacquiao was on top of the fight for the most part. Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis weighed in on the matter on Twitter clearly baffled by this result…
This is what’s wrong with boxing. Horn was very game but I’m hard pressed to see how he could have won that fight by any stretch! #PacHorn
As expected, the Philippines’ cadre of social media “influencers” swooped in to politicise the moment. Camps critical of the government of Philippine President Rodrigo have for some time taken issue with how Pacquiao had been publicly sympathetic to the president’s controversial initiatives. Leading the pack is singer Jim Paredes who is one of the top celebrity critics of the Duterte administration. Paredes summarises the whole problem he sees with Pacquiao in this tweet…
You used to unify us. The whole nation.. Not anymore. EJK, anti-gay, death penalty got in the way.
After u rest I hope you pay your taxes.
He also described in an earlier tweet the day Pacquiao lost to Horn as “a great day”.
It does not help Pacquiao either that Horn is a self-confessed victim of bullying. “I got called ‘gay’ a lot’,” Horn recalls as a small and skinny teenager. He admitted to having “suicidal thoughts” as a result. These revelations about what drove Horn to take up boxing which would ultimately lead to this momentous day when he beat Pacquiao the international champ is the sort of thing the homosexual community would likely latch on to. In the context of Pacquiao’s renowned anti-gay sentiment, Horn will likely become a powerful symbol to many in the community of how victims of discrimination triumphed against a bigot — that old familiar narrative that resonates in typical liberal political camps.
This is the tragedy that is Pacquiao. Before he entered politics, he was a powerful unifying force in a country where basketball and boxing are very potent opiates of the impoverished masses. The trouble with Filipino voters is that they are unable to separate politics from sports — and reality from television drama. Pacquiao was voted into Philippine Congress because of boxing — not because of any demonstrated skill at legislating or, for that matter, any form of intellectual pursuit.
But if we thought Filipinos were a confused enough lot voting Pacquiao into the legislature, the confusion surrounding Pacquiao the boxing-cum-political idol has reached a zenith today with Filipinos polarised amongst themselves even on the outcome of a boxing match — on one side, people like Paredes and the pack hipster liberals he represents who, even after this upset, regard the champ with scorn and, on the other side, the broader public who more closely mirror the overall character of Philippine society who remain loyal to their idol.
Confused indeed. It seems, nowadays, Filipinos not only can’t agree on what to expect of their politicians, they now cannot agree on what to expect of their boxers. Suffice to say, the only real winner here is Manny Pacquiao and the business interests surrounding him that profit from his fights, whether he wins or loses. Where there are winners, there are, of course, losers. Pacquiao, win or lose, may make Filipinos feel like winners. But feeling like a winner is different from actually being a winner — specially in this particular equation.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.