Pacquiao: more than a fighter

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The Independent Online

Manny Pacquiao lived on the streets as a child in Manila, fights for a living today, visited President Obama recently and will inevitably upgrade from congressman to presidential candidate in the Philippines in the next 10 years.

His days under cardboard on the streets of the sprawling city, after leaving home when his father allegedly slaughtered and cooked his pet dog, and his improbable rise to the Philippine congress, where he is the architect of new anti-sex slave legislation, make his story one of boxing's most amazing.

Pacquiao will defend his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title tonight at the MGM in Las Vegas against the once brilliant but now slightly jaded Shane Mosley. He is unbeaten since 1995 and has added world titles at five weights since his last loss. As a fighter Pacquiao has won world titles at seven different weights and has a truly remarkable back catalogue of startling finishes in brutal fights. His savage series of meetings with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, the finest Mexicans of this and arguably any generation, and his cold-eyed destructions of Ricky Hatton and Oscar de la Hoya guarantee Pacquiao a special place in boxing's history books.

Last May he won a seat in the Philippine congress for the province of Sarangani and he has taken his congressional duties so seriously that his trainer, Freddie Roach, was convinced that he would walk away from the sport. "I think we will lose him to politics," Roach told me last summer. However, Pacquiao is skilled at manipulating time and his entourage, which is a staggering moving, cooking, laughing and singing gang, and now includes his political chief of staff.

His passage from six-stone anonymity, fighting for peanuts in long forgotten Filipino outposts, to the smiling, bilingual boxer with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $70m (£43m) is one of the legends of the boxing business. Bob Arum, the promoter who travelled with Muhammad Ali and promotes Pacquiao, is convinced that he is a bigger star. "Ali never had this level of devotion.In the Philippines he [Pacquiao] is the social welfare system – the best one. He helps everybody," Arum said.

"I want to achieve the same in politics that I have in boxing," said Pacquiao. "I will start with what I know best and what I know needs to change." At the same time, the 32-year-old has unfinished business inside the ring and is still hoping for a showdown with the evasive American Floyd Mayweather in a fight that would guarantee the pair $50m if it can possibly be made.

Also, Pacquiao's latest CD was released last month and reputedly sold out immediately. It is called Sometimes When We Touch and is a compilation of power ballads from the Seventies and includes no fewer than seven versions of the title song. His love of music does not end there – tonight Survivor's Jimi Jamison will perform "Eye of the Tiger" live for Pacquiao's ring walk.

1. Muhammad Ali

Won Olympic gold in 1960. He had 25 world title fights and regained the world heavyweight title three times. Backed up his boxing with his banter. 1960-1981 Won 56 of 61 fights.

2. Manny Pacquiao

Turned pro at 16, won first world title at 19. Has won world titles at seven weights and beaten the best at their best and at their best weight. 1995-present Won 52 of 57.

3. Sugar Ray Leonard

American won Olympic gold in 1976 and had 13 world title fights and held titles at five different weights. First to earn $100m in purses. 1977-1997 Won 36 of 40.

4. Roberto Duran

Turned pro at 17. He had 22 world title fights between 1972 and 1998 and held titles at four weights. He once knocked out a horse. 1968-2001 Won 103 of 109.

5. Oscar de la Hoya

Mexican American from a boxing family won Olympic gold in 1992, had 29 world title fights and won world titles at six different weights. 1992-2008 Won 39 of his 45.