There will be no ‘next Pacquiao’
Sports is replete with the search for new heroes.
The United States, the grazing land of sports heroes of all kinds, searched for alternatives when larger than life champions struck out or were knocked down for the final count. Americans and subsequently the rest of the world looked for substitutes for Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and others.
There was an aching for greatness. Many who followed in the paths of the great sports icons often struggled until they found their own stature. Baseball’s Mickey Mantle carried the onus of longing for New York Yankee greatness, carved his own name but hobbled with injuries throughout his career. After Ali, the world looked for its ring champion and found traces of greatness in Sugar Ray Leonard and others. But there was only one Ali.
And now we find ourselves looking for our “next Manny Pacquiao,” a new ring gladiator who will hold our collective need for a champion who represents us. The rags-to-riches Pacquiao story has been retold so many times that it is now a legend. His ring conquests against some of the ring’s biggest names of this generation have inspired many to follow in his footsteps and try their hand in a sport that can make heroes swiftly and can destroy them just as quickly.
Pacquiao is still very much around but the “Pambansang Kamao” (National Fist) has already done more than enough for this hero-hungry land. A fight or two remains in the horizon, attempts perhaps to bring a storied career to a fitting ending. But sport can be merciless and the image of the hero heading into the twilight with a triumph is never easily crafted in reality.
We owe it to Pacquiao though to make his own decision when to end his career. But now we look at the present and the future and should realistically come to terms with the truth that there will be no “next Pacquiao.” His story and legend will remain his own.
The soft-spoken Jerwin Ancajas, whose ring smarts and quick hands have given him a fourth successful defense of his IBF super flyweight title, will make his own story. His humble beginnings and the path he took to make his boxing dream come true though are similar to those of Pacquiao.
And yet Ancajas will be his own man. His journey is just beginning and the challenges of his generation are still ahead. We will always cherish Pacquiao and understandably long for him. But we have to allow Ancajas and others to shape their own greatness.
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