For a sports journalist who once proclaimed that Manny Pacquiao “has been the most fascinating fighter I’ve covered in more than 40 years on the boxing beat and for much of his career, the one I most looked forward to covering,” former Ring Magazine editor Nigel Collins recently came out with guns blazing in chastising the Filipino for aligning himself with President Duterte.
Collins was in Manila in March 2004 to award Pacquiao the Ring Magazine featherweight title belt as the “people’s world champion” for halting Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera the year before. He presented the belt to Pacquiao in the presence of President Arroyo and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza at Malacañang Palace.
Collins, in an article entitled “Phenom” published in the June 16, 2016, issue of the Boxing News of London, remembered the ceremony vividly. “There was a general election coming up and after I strapped the belt around Manny’s waist and raised his left arm, he reached over, took President Arroyo’s arm and raised it,” he wrote. “We stood there, each holding one of the champ’s arms aloft as a small army of TV and print media recorded the moment for posterity. Arroyo, who was running for a second term, couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement. Pacquiao was a savvy politician years before he ran for office.”
During his Manila visit, Collins was welcomed warmly by his Filipino contacts, including the Elorde family and American writer Ted Lerner who lives here and is often tapped to serve as ring announcer for big boxing events all over the country.
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Collins wrote that Pacquiao evolved over time as both a boxer and a person and said it’s virtually impossible to separate the fighter from the man. “Regardless of what happens in the political arena, Pacquiao has already earned his place as one of history’s most remarkable boxers,” he said. “Eight major titles from flyweight to superwelter are impressive enough but the list of men he beat is even more impressive. Yes, Pacquiao had his losses – six all told, most famously to Floyd Mayweather but that’s going to happen when taking risks is second nature. Manny started taking risks when he stowed away on the ferry from his home in General Santos City to Manila and was still taking risks when he entered the ring against Mayweather with a bum arm.”
Collins should’ve reminded himself of what he had previously written about Pacquiao when he fired his broadside in a scathing piece published in the Oct. 13, 2016 issue of the Boxing News of London. He said it’s virtually impossible to separate the fighter from the man, that Pacquiao has always been known for taking risks and he’s a savvy politician. But after Pacquiao recently sided with President Duterte, Collins forgot about all the things he’d said about the Filipino ring icon before. Collins suddenly became a political analyst of a Third World country struggling to battle a drug menace and despite his declaration of Pacquiao being a savvy politican who isn’t risk-averse, never gave him the benefit of the doubt. Where was the respect that Collins showed to Pacquiao in that article that was published only four months ago?
Collins threw a bomb at Pacquiao when he wasn’t looking, like Mayweather sucker-punching Victor Ortiz. Pacquiao couldn’t even defend himself. The least Collins could’ve done was to reach out to Pacquiao and ask for his comments. Obviously, Collins is no Duterte fan and joined the bandwagon of political analysts who have become overnight experts of Philippine politics in lambasting the Chief Executive for his strong-arm policies and comments.
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“I’ve always been an ardent admirer of Manny but his alliance with Rodrigo Duterte has unnerved me,” said Collins. “How did Pacquiao get mixed up with such a reprehensible individual as Duterte? There is almost no idealism in Philippine politics. Everyone wants to be a winner. Politicians that are famous for going whichever way the wind blows, switching parties to whomever is in power. There is no loyalty to one’s party or to a set of principles.”
Collins wrote about Duterte’s extra-judicious killings, Leila de Lima and even the movement of politicians from one political party to the other, citing the United Nationalist Party and the PDP-Laban. He lashed out at Pacquiao and accused him of winning his Senate seat “because he is famous, not because he stood for anything beyond the ambiguous ‘help the people’ platform.” He added, “Pacquiao hid behind his interpretation of the Bible when his cruel comments about the LGBT community earlier this year drew criticism ... now he’s doing likewise to excuse Duterte at a time when global condemnation of his brutal policies is mounting.”
Collins said Pacquiao’s alignment with Duterte might impact on the pay-per-view sales of his Nov. 5 fight against Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas. “Win or lose against Vargas, Pacquiao’s true test will take place back home in the Philippines,” said Collins. “Have the guts to stand up for human rights whatever the cost or stand next to Duterte, cheering as democracy gets flushed down the toilet?”
My view is Collins went beyond his field of expertise in giving a one-sided analysis of Philippine politics. As a boxing writer who has drooled over Pacquiao, he didn’t bother to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was the least he could’ve done to a fighter on whom he has lavished praise in the past. Collins’ opinions come from a Developed Country perspective and show little understanding of Developing Country dynamics. I’m not in a position to give an expert opinion on what’s going in Philippine politics because that’s not my line of expertise as a writer. But I know one thing – Pacquiao deserves a lot more respect from the boxing media than what Collins cruelly dispensed.