Manny Pacquiao is the most globally popular athlete today.
Not only is he known throughout the boxing community but he is recognizable throughout the world. It is a meteoric rise for the little boy that was born in the small town of Kibawe, Bukidnon in the Philippines.
You need to have a ton of assets to become a global icon. You need prestige, visibility, and marketability. Manny Pacquiao has these in droves. Here are the reasons he is currently the most popular athlete in the world.
First we must establish that Pacquiao's legacy extends beyond the American boxing arena.
Being one of their own, Many Pacquiao is beloved by the Filipino population both overseas and in the United States. It has turned from a loyal following into a cultural identity. The loyalty the country has to their country's hero is a badge they wear faithfully on their sleeve.
He has come to mean everything Filipinos wish to be identified with.
It is important for a global icon to step out of his comfort zone. Pac Man has shown he can do just that. He has appeared in eight movies to date and has had two appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The real joy is to know that he will improve on his exposure. Rumors are circulating that he is talks to appear in some of Sylvester Stallone's upcoming ventures.
While Pacquiao is without a doubt committed to boxing, he has another passion, singing.
Many have witnessed that Pacquiao will use any excuse to sing. In various installments of HBO's series 24/7, we witness Manny taking to his karaoke machine with glee. But his career as a singer extends beyond the amateur.
He is a professional singer that not only tours but has also recorded an album. In 2006, he released Laban Nating Lahat Ito, which was recorded in his native Tagalog language.
Not content with just boxing, or acting, or even singing, Manny has recently become a state official in the Fillipines.
In May of this year, Pacquiao became the congressman for the province of Sarangani. It is an illustration that Manny cares about his people a great deal. So much so that he would split his interest to ensure they are taken care of personally.
To be recognized by the world over, it helps to have a list of acheivemnets that are recognized by top puplications and news outlets. You need to also work your way into popular culture to ensure a legacy.
The impact Manny Pacquiao has had can be seen in the following:
TIME magazine 2009: Listed in as one of the most influential people in the world.
Forbes Magazine (2009): Top 100 celebrities
TIME Asia (2009): Cover story November 16th
Boxing Writer's Association Fighter of the Decade
HBO Fighter of the Decade
There are leagues, like the NFL, that do not have a huge following outside the United States. Boxing on the other hand, is understood and followed by many countries around the world.
Pacquiao's opponents have also lent him a universal following. Each fighter he boxes brings with them fans from various nations. He has been seen by the British comunity (Ricky Hatton), the Mexican community (Margarito, Marquez, et. al.), the African nations, (Joshua Clottey, Ghana), and so on.
Manny Pacquiao may seem flashy. He is not, he is just really good. He is one of the most sound fighters of the past decade. A quick look at some of his fights will show some of the quickest hands in the business.
In fact, it is sometimes hard to follow his punches. The quickness is what excites fans. He looks almost artistic as he finds openings and pummels his opponents. When you add the deceptive power he touts, it is tough to leave any of his fights for fear of missing a knockout.
Manny Pacquiao has never shyed from an opponent. It is the foremost reason he is regarded so highly. He fights the best. By beating them we can justly measure his stature among the sports greatest.
After beating Marco Antonio Barrera in 11 rounds, in 2003, he took upon the imposing Juan Manuel Marquez. It was one of the closets bouts of his career as it ended in a draw. Some would have held off a rematch, but not Manny. He beat Marquez in 2008.
He has fought and beat a bigger De la Hoya, a brawler in Ricky Hatton, and the closest to his skill set outside of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Miguel Cotto.
A versatile boxer, he holds titles ranging from the flyweight division to the welterweight.
The possible fight that should one day happen with boxing's second best pugilist, Floyd Mayweather Jr., has even the most casual observer salivating.
The back and forth on this fight has been going on for over a year now. It is still the hottest topic in Boxing's arena. What this has done is put Manny Pacquiao front and center as boxing's good guy.
Whatever the true story may be, the feeling among fans is that Pacquiao is a fighter that will take on all comers and Mayweather is ducking him.
The main reason fans flock to his side is he is far and away the best in his sport and he is recognized as such. He is listed as the number one pound for pound boxer by; Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Ring, and Yahoo Sports.
Being at the top of your sport puts him in lofty company. Look at the cache you get from names like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Both dominated the competition in their sport. Manny Pacquiao is doing just that in his.