The faith of Manny Pacquiao
• Pacquiao has journeyed through many faith-brands
• He’s now a born-again Christian
• His faith has calmed him
LAS VEGAS, Nevada — When Manny Pacquiao said he wants to fight “to give glory to God,” I had trouble understanding at first what he truly meant.
In the morning before the Pacquiao-Bradley fight of April 12, a group of about 30 of the congressman’s closest friends and family gathered in his penthouse suite in Mandalay Bay for a prayer service.
Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin was one of them. I saw him with knees and hands on the floor, bowing to the Almighty. Baldwin has something in common with Pacquiao: both are saddled with tax problems. The coterie performed praise and worship songs. They prayed with eyes closed and smiled as they sang.
Manny Dapidran Pacquiao has journeyed through so many faiths, it’s hard to keep track. He was raised Roman Catholic by his mother Dionesia. At one point in his boxing career, he became Protestant and was seen in the company of Protestant pastors.
When he lost to Juan Miguel Marquez in December 2012, his mother blamed it on his Protestantism. “Since the Protestant pastors came into his life, he has not focused on his boxing,” she was quoted in the news as saying. Faith became her convenient scapegoat, not so much that Pacquiao, according to an ESPN report, was having marital problems around that time.
“Jinkee at first refused to accompany her husband to the MGM Grand Garden Arena before the fight (with Marquez. Pacquiao refused to leave the suite without her and, according to members of his camp, when she finally agreed to go with him, Pacquiao wound up arriving so late to the dressing room that he had less than 15 minutes to warm up with trainer Freddie Roach before walking to the ring.”
When Pacquiao faced Bradley in April, he was wearing a new religion on his sleeves. He had become a born-again Christian. He has reportedly given up his previous lifestyle of excess and is devoting himself to Bible studies with the help of a spiritual adviser.
I shadowed Pacquiao for weeks before the match and saw how he was around people, his fans, his trainers, his family and his regular hangers-on.
It began with Media Day in Los Angeles, eight days before the main event at MGM Grand. I spoke to him in between breaks in practice. He was full of confidence, full of praise for coach Freddie Roach’s training regimen, which he said was “more structured and diverse.”
“I’ve done my fitness, training and speed. Bahala na si Lord,” he told The FilAm.
Actor Aaron Eckhart paid him a visit. He said of Pacman, “He has tremendous speed and power. He’s got great defense and I admire his speed and punch selection.”
Up close, I saw a man with greater confidence and seemingly at peace with everything around him. He beamed with pride as he shared the news that his wife, Jinkee, was heavy with their fifth child. (She would give birth to a boy two weeks after the fight.)
His faith has calmed him. He is secure in his belief and favorite biblical truth that “If God is with you, who can be against you.”
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