What is Pacquiao thinking?

LOS ANGELES - The last-minute decision of Manny Pacquiao to push back his scheduled arrival in Los Angeles from October 13 to October 27 and now to October 20 has sent ripples through the boxing world, at least here in the US.

Problem is, no reasons were given for the decision to postpone his arrival and his announced commitment to begin training on Monday, October 15 at the Wild Card Gym of celebrated Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.

Roach told us during a visit to his gym that he was looking forward to Pacquiao's arrival and that he had made it clear the gym would be closed from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. while Pacquiao was working out.

Pacquiao's adviser Michael Koncz himself had confirmed the arrival date and even the media, many of them Filipinos, had been alerted about the Pacman's arrival. They naturally wondered why the change, fueling speculations that Manny was too engrossed in politics to be able to focus on boxing and that he had lost the fire to fight.

It contradicts, in a sense, the fact that he had just recently extended his contract with the eminent promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank for another year beyond December 31, 2013 when his promotional agreement was scheduled to lapse. Pacquiao reportedly received a $1 million signing bonus for the extended contract.

Arum himself appeared peeved about the delay in Pacquiao's arrival which is perfectly understandable, telling his people not to move on any shoots, interviews, guest appearances or promotional activities until Manny sets foot in Los Angeles.

Even with brisk ticket sales over the first weekend leading to the December 8 fourth showdown with Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez, there's still considerable promotional work to be done in terms of racking up the pay-per-view numbers which won't be affected if Pacquiao remains in his hometown of General Santos City training under his childhood friend, Restituto "Buboy" Fernandez.

Certainly, as one noted sportswriter told us, he'd rather read what comes out on Dong Secuya's philboxing.com internet site about Pacquiao than spend a substantial amount of money flying to the Philippines to cover his training and whatever other activities he is involved in, which may well be politics and that, except for the time he ran for a congressional seat in the lone district of Sarangani province, may not be worthwhile.

It's unlike the time when some of the top journalists in the US, including Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, made the journey during the last congressional campaign which turned out to be quite an experience made even more meaningful by Pacquiao's resounding victory.

Following his controversial split decision win in his third fight against Marquez which the Mexican continues to insist he won, and the robbery pulled off against Manny when he lost his WBO welterweight title by a split decision to Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley , somehow the deeply passionate interest and following for Pacquiao seems to have waned, to some extent influenced by the perception that he has sacrificed his interest in boxing for politics.

With his charming wife Jinkee thrust into the political pot as she seeks the vice governorship of Sarangani despite her previously announced disinterest in any political office and his brother Rogelio's attempt to challenge the articulate, politically savvy Darlene Antonino Custodio, the burden falls on Pacquiao both in terms of funding and spearheading an organization that could give his elder brother a fighting chance against tremendous odds.

In the midst of all this is Pacquiao's fervent pursuit of Bible studies and his transformation from an eight-division world boxing champion to a preacher man who appears to have veered away from his previously deeply abiding Catholic faith which hasn't been lost on some of the Church's prelates.

One can understand the feelings of Bob Arum on this latest caper coming as it did after an extraordinary delay in deciding on who his next opponent would be.

The oft-used line for the delay in moving forward on the Marquez fight even by adviser Michael Koncz was, "there's no hurry." That may be true when it came to picking an opponent for December 8 but it certainly does not apply to his preparation for the fight against Marquez which could conceivably end the career of Pacquiao should he lose.

Pacquiao- and some of those around him - may not realize that his political clout is anchored on his success as a fighter and Filipinos generally - like most others - have no time for a loser.

If he is to keep the fires of an ultimate presidential bid burning not just in his heart but in the hearts of millions of Filipinos, Pacquiao needs to stay in the public spotlight. This can only be done if he continues to fight - and win - with the goal of ultimately drawing undefeated Floyd Mayweather, Jr. into the ring for a fight the entire world wants to see but isn't inclined to wait for, much longer.

Pacquiao's actions which have, rightly or wrongly, been interpreted as a diminishing interest in the sport that brought him fame and fortune and turned him into a genuine crossover superstar, may well see a parallel drop in interest in what he does outside the ring. He may not be able to maintain the attention and the public interest in him and his many noble activities if he fades from the boxing scene.

Besides, boxing helps continue to bring in millions of dollars to replenish his political war chest which may well be depleted in future battles both by Pacquiao himself and his family members who, as some note with a measure of disdain, further aggravates the Constitutional provision against dynasties which unfortunately hasn't been fleshed out by a law passed by Congress, leaving the Constitutional directive in limbo.

Yahoo! Philippines learned that Pacquiao's postponement of his arrival in LA has also scuttled a planned shoot for a product endorsement. This surely does not help Pacquiao's image nor does it enhance his ability to get endorsements with such a cavalier-like attitude to commitments.

Bob Arum put it succinctly when he told us, "Manny has to decide whether he is a boxer or he's a politician. I would like for the next two months for him to be a boxer and then the politics will take care of itself when he finishes the fight with Marquez. But that's up to him."

The Top Rank promoter cautioned Pacquiao that the fourth encounter with Marquez "is going to be a completely different fight from the fights they've had before. Each guy is going to go out for a knockout and it better be the best Manny Pacquiao that shows up."

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.

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