Will Manny Pacquiao Learn From the Alexis Arguello Tragedy?
I applaud Manny Pacquiao for his recent success in being elected a congressman in his native Philippines. For years, he's been the proverbial "man of the people" and donated lavishly to schools, churches, and charities.
He's known for handing out money and food to the poor.
Then again, so was Al Capone.
Pacquiao is a marvelous fighter and deserves every single accolade and dollar that has come to his way. I don't care what anyone "suspects" about him, his moves up in weight class from flyweight to welterweight, and his subsequent dominance in each weight class, is as impressive as anything accomplished by the likes of Willie Pep or Sugar Ray Robinson.
His wars with Eric Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barrera were some of the best fights of the past 10 years.
Along the way, he's taken up acting, singing, and, of course, politics.
It's these extra-curricular activities that should be cause for concern for all Pacquiao fans.
I'm all for renaissance men who master a broad range of activities. Manny, quite obviously, doesn't want to be pigeon-holed into just a boxer.
But are these honest pursuits, or a glaring need for the spotlight?
Is he really concerned about helping the Filipino people? Or is his political career just a segue into a position that will keep him the public eye when he's done with boxing?
I honestly don't know.
If Pacquiao is seriously concerned with helping the Filipino people, there's a cautionary tale he should acquaint himself with.
Alexis Arguello was another world champion who made a foray into politics. In fact, he became mayor of Managua, the capital of his native Nicaragua.
For those of you who know the story, it ended in tragedy last August. Arguello committed suicide of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Arguello was part of the Sandinista political party. A Communist party that had, in fact, kicked him out of Nicaragua in the early '80s and taken his house and all of his possessions.
Then president Daniel Ortega declared him a national disgrace and refused to honor any of his achievements within the boxing ring. While Ortega was in power, Arguello wasn't even allowed inside his homeland. In fact, Arguello even took up arms in fighting the Sandinistas in the late '80s.
Flash forward 20 years.
Arguello is broke and down on his luck. He's still a legend within Nicaragua. Ortega was defeated in the 1990 elections and lost subsequently in 1996 and 2001. He was fast becoming persona non grata in Nicaragua and losing any chance of regaining political power.
That's when he approached Arguello to support him in his 2006 campaign.
Arguello and Ortega had been enemies for over 20 years, yet Arguello jumped at the opportunity "to be somebody" once again. He readily endorsed Ortega and the Sandinista party. Apparently, he was promised a prominent cabinet position and the opportunity to help the Nicaraguan people.
He was instrumental in helping Ortega win back the presidency in 2006.
Once his job was over, Ortega cast him aside. Sure, he gave him a important sounding title, vice-mayor of Managua, but all the decisions were made by his advisers.
Arguello was a figurehead and nothing else. He was trotted out when a candidate within the Sandinista party needed to win an election and then shoved back in a corner when he wasn't needed.
He never made a difference. He never helped the Nicaraguan people as he had promised to do.
The same fate could await Manny Pacquiao.
Manny doesn't have a great history of thinking for himself or even guiding his own boxing career. There was the famous flap with Top Rank and Golden Boy when Pacquiao signed contracts with both promotion companies.
Even now, Bob Arum seems to be calling the shots in his career and is the loudest voice in curtailing the Mayweather fight.
All that tells me is that Pacquiao can't even control his own promoter. I'll give Floyd Mayweather a lot of credit in that arena; he seems to be calling the shots in his career.
For those of you who watch HBO's 24/7 , sometimes it seems that Freddie Roach has to coax Manny into focusing on training, at one point even leaving the camp without Pacquiao, because he was tired of Manny's theatrics.
I've heard that Manny ran a great political campaign, so that gives me hope he has some of the strategic leadership and vision he'll need to guide himself through Filipino politics.
But he is un-educated, and he doesn't come from a political background or family. If he thought boxing's politics were brutal and nasty, wait until he finds out how ruthless real politicians can be.
If he starts relying on his advisers to do his thinking for him, he'll be little more than a talking head while others do all the thinking and conniving.
Manny already seems especially susceptible to his advisers. Witness his continued preferential treatment of Michael Koncz—an "adviser" who seems to be little more than a poster boy and rat for Bob Arum.
Apparently, everyone else—including Freddie Roach—can't stand the sight of Koncz. One example of the distrust and dislike towards Koncz by Team Pacquiao came last October. On an airplane ride to the Philippines, Koncz and Pacquiao's fitness adviser, Alex Ariza, came to blows and had to be restrained by others within the entourage.
Everone wants Koncz out of the picture, yet he continually has Pacquiao's ear and confidence.
He's turned his back on the opinions of his trusted friends and family just to acquiesce to Koncz and Arum.
That's what worries me about Pacquiao the politician. How easy will it be for special interests to gain his trust—and his vote?
How easy will it be for him to turn his back on the Filipino people once some slick-sounding politician gets into his pocket?
I'm still unsure of his motives.
Is he simply trying to elbow up to the political and business elite and prepare for a career after boxing? Will he happily sell his endorsement to the highest bidder? Will he allow himself to be used in the same way that Arguello was used?
I hope not. The world could use a success story right now.
I hope he's closer to Nelson Mandela than to Ferdinand Marcos.
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