Like Filipinos around the world, on Saturday, November 14, 2009, our family gathered at my brother-in-law, Charlie's, house to watch the Pacquiao vs Cotto WBO welterweight fight. Charlie has a movie theater in his basement big enough to accommodate our clan. Like any Filipino gathering, there was a lot of food, talking and merriment.
Everyone looked to the fight with apprehensive anticipation. Can Manny beat a bigger opponent known for landing hard punches? Even the women of the family who all oppose the violence, blood and gore of boxing could not help themselves. Those who watched HBO 24/7 worried that Manny did not spend as much time training as he did running his political campaign to be a congressman, rehearsing with his band, and helping typhoon victims. Someone commented that Manny did not seem focused as the camera panned on him in the dressing room. Cotto, on the other hand seemed determined, focused and ready.
So we watched. The guys made technical comments, the women watched with one eye closed or at an angle so they could not see the hard punches. Everyone was shouting and screaming as Manny landed punches and cringed as he took one.
For many women, boxing is such a painful gladiator sport to watch even though we know that these athletes train hard to withstand grueling punishment. As a physician, I cringed as I imagined the concussion and whiplash that these fighters sustain and the long term outcome such as we see in retired football players and sadly in the great Muhammad Ali. We know too well, the dangers of a well placed punch and hope both fighters come out unharmed at the end of the fight. By the 10th round, the women in our family were begging for someone to stop the fight already especially as we empathized with the anguish on Melissa Cotto's face. We wished we weren't watching but could not stay away. We watched riveted, nonetheless, because Manny Pacquiao has that effect on Filipino men and women alike, because he is our own, because he stands for the Filipino dream to be acknowledged in the world, because he stands for the poor fatherless street urchin who did not give up on the dream and because as great as he has proven himself to be, he remains humble and generous. Our shouts of glee resonated with those of Filipinos the world over as the fight was stopped on the 12th round with a TKO. At the same time, Miguel Cotto's grace in defeat was not lost on everyone as he proved himself to be a classy fighter.
Our family will definitely gather again for the next Pacquiao fight. We are checking the Internet for Team Pacquiao tee shirts (like we're not hyped up yet.) The guys might be interested in Manny Pacquiao underwear to be made by Big Headed Boxers. We will follow Pacquiao's political career and check out his music CD's. Four million Filipinos make up one per cent of the American population. There will be a big market for all things Pacquiao in the US alone.
As the Filipino people revel in the victory, I think. If one man can unite a people even for just a few hours, think of the power of many one man and many one woman, all working in their own way to unite all people. Manny Pacquiao has proven that any dream can happen.