Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (left) faces off with Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley during a news conference at the Chelsea Piers in New York on Feb. 23.
Contributed to the Filipino Reporter
Manny Pacquiao was his normal shy and gracious self at the New York leg of his press tour promoting his June 9, 2012 fight against unbeaten boxer Timothy Bradley.
His replies to questions asked of him during his various interviews with members of the press were short and direct to the point, just like in the past.
He is both sincere in his answers and in his smile as reporters question him from his on-and-off fight with Floyd Mayweather to his thoughts of Knicks star Jeremy Lin and to his future in the sport.
But you can sense that there is something different of the man who is considered to be boxing’s pound-for-pound king.
He is still humble and non-confrontational especially on the very testy subject of his off court rival in Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather challenged Pacquiao by way of the social media Twitter “to give the world what they want to see.”
This was followed by succeeding “tweets” that portray Pacquiao as a “coward” and a “punk.”
Pacquiao shrugged off questions about Mayweather’s attempt to get to him by calling him names and for blaming him as the reason the proposed fight won’t happen this summer.
“He is making statements that I am the one who does not want to fight. God bless him, I will just pray for him,” said Pacquiao.
We all know Pacquiao as a devout Catholic.
He wears the rosary in the ring and the image of him praying before and after a hard fight is a normal part of his game.
He has been that way ever since he fought.
But this time, Pacquiao is different.
His approach to his faith is a serious matter for the boxing champion.
He does not hesitate to fill in passages of the Bible on various portions of his discussions with the press.
He encouraged everyone to read the Bible because it is “the commandment of God and we need to follow God’s commandments.”
A comment that drew applause and cheers from the fans present at the Lighthouse of Chelsea Piers where the press conference is being held.
Pacquiao has been reported to be deeply involved in Bible studies in the Philippines.
A practice that has been attributed to the changes people around him see nowadays.
Especially the one closest to him.
His wife, Jinkee.
“I am happy. Ipinag pray ko talaga na sana maging okay na at (siya ay) nasa daang matuwid, kung baga,” said Mrs. Pacquiao.
“For me it’s an answered prayer na si Manny ay babalik sa Diyos at ma-realize nung tao yung lahat ng mga kasalanan niya at mga nagawa niya. I am happy at doon na siya naka-focus ngayon,” she added.
She also acknowledged that Manny has been spending more time with her and their kids, this despite his very busy schedule as a boxer, celebrity and a congressman of their province.
The changes in Manny Pacquiao are also visible to members of his team.
Edward Lura, who is a one of the original members of Team Pacquiao from Los Angeles attests to this.
“He’s more balanced with his time...family, boxing, God and being a congressman.”
Lura described him as the same humble and meek individual that he has known ever since except that “He’s just more focused.”
Lura also affirms reports that the fighting congressman of Sarangani gave up “sabong” or cock-fighting, a national pastime in the Philippines where Pacquiao is heavily involved at in the past.
He even gave away all his fighting cocks, according to Lura.
Turning away from his vices is not only the thing Manny Pacquiao has been doing of late.
He has been doing daily Bible studies wherever he may be.
Even in his last fight with Marquez, his nights during fight week were not complete without him attending a session which his team arranged for him in his suite.
In fact, he attended to one, hours before he fought Marquez in a brutal 12 round war at the MGM Grand last November.
The warrior of the ring is also a student of the holy book.
“We need to read the Bible. It is the manual of our life. If you want eternal life, we need to read the Bible so we will know how to follow His commandments,” commented Pacquiao of his immersion to it.
“Because without God, we are not here in this world,” ended Pacquiao as he stood up from the round table discussion.
“Thank you guys. God bless you all,” he said as he walked towards a secluded room of the Chelsea Piers.
It was hard to know if the man in front of you last week in New York was indeed the world’s best prizefighter or a regular church pastor.
Because when he finished the interview with various television networks in that secluded room of the Chelsea Piers, Pacquiao made his way to the exit with a Bible on his hand.
Because the last time he was here, he was instead playing with his Blackberry, but not today, not nowadays.
He temporarily handed his Bible to adviser Michael Koncz to acknowledge the throng of fans waiting for him at the door of the venue.
He stopped, posed for pictures and signed a number of items from gloves, posters, hats and even a shirt that a fan was wearing.
This to the delight of the fans who have been cheering and chanting his name for hours.
Pacquiao then thanked them, took the Bible back from Koncz and sprinted towards the waiting SUV outside where Jinkee was already settled in.
Pacquiao is in a hurry not to do more promotional activities but because the Pacquiao’s booked the earliest flight out of New York to Manila so they can see their children as soon as possible because he missed them already.
It will be hard to tell if the changes in Pacquiao will affect his performance in the ring, and we shall know in about three months time.
But the changes in him as a person, a Christian, a husband and a father have already taken place in the life of the Filipino icon.
Superstar boxer Manny Pacquiao tests out Nike’s new basketball and training technology at Basketball City, Pier 36 in New York on Feb. 22. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)