(No typical) Day in the stateside life of Pacquiao
LOS ANGELES—The lawns are well manicured but the community is neither gated nor affluent. Very few other celebrities are known to live in this neighborhood, which is just off the more upscale Hancock Park, but there’s no mistaking who lives in one of the few gated houses around.
The neighbors are used to living next to this celebrity, so they don’t mind the crowd that gathers outside his house or the cars that fill up whatever space is left on both sides of Plymouth Boulevard on this sunny spring afternoon. They are members of Team Pacquiao and a handful of media men trying to squeeze something out of what is left of Media Day at training camp.
Finally, two cars arrive. The first unloads what looks like takeout food from the resident’s favorite Thai restaurant outside his place of work. The second car, a dark Mercedes Benz, enters the gate, stops next to a Ferrari and delivers the man the crowd has been waiting for.
Smiling broadly, Manny Pacquiao, after another day at the office, is home. A member of his team calls it a mansion. Indeed, it’s a mansion for the hoi polloi from whose ranks the once-impoverished Manny comes from. But it’s a modest abode by Hollywood standards. Soon, Pacquiao will be moving to a new address with celebrity neighbors in a gated barrio called the Summit in Beverly Hills, light years removed from his humble, proletarian beginnings. Soon, there will be peace and quiet on the street where he lives.
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But for now, the champion’s house is like a marketplace in Babylon. People speak in three different languages—English, Tagalog, Cebuano. Sometimes they have to introduce themselves to one another, although the Pacquiao mascot, a vested Jack Russell terrier named Pacman, seems to know everyone by their smell. It’s almost impossible for a visiting newcomer to tell who’s a relative, who’s a member of the household staff, who’s a member of the boxing staff or who’s just a plain hanger-on. They all act the same; they all feel at home. Manny obviously wants it that way.
A king and his princesses
Pacquiao, fresh from a jampacked Media Day at Wild Card gym, motions a visitor—new face in the crowd—to sit next to him as he presides over another typical day at the Pacquiao home. He sits on a white high-back, tufted accent chair that looks like a crossover between Victorian and contemporary styles. The furniture seems out of place, but it’s the throne from where reigns the master of the house, the king of boxing, and champion of the commoners.
No sooner has the king settled on this throne than two princesses approach from nowhere to curtsy before him. Queenie and Princess, his daughters, make faces, and play with daddy. They show him their doll and stroller. Then, as quickly as they emerged, they flit out of sight and go upstairs to play some more. An aide hands over to Manny a glass of tea and a glossy celebrity magazine with him on the cover. Inside are spreads of photos from his most recent fight, a masterful and methodical victory over Chris Algieri in Macau.
After leafing through the pages, he stares at a full-color centerspread of him raising his hands in triumph, while a photographer clicks away from overhead halfway through the stairs behind Manny.
Roll with the punches
An aide, a former television cameraman who drove a couple of Manila-based journalist to Las Vegas to attend Mayweather’s Media Day the previous day, approaches Manny and tells him how he was roughed up and bodily carried out of the event after the fighter’s bodyguards discovered he was from Team Pacquiao. But Manny, who earlier in the day had instructed security to let everyone, including those from the so-called Mayweather Media, into the Wild Card gym, advises the aide to just roll with the punches and leave it to the Lord.
Pacquiao, a devout Christian convert, quotes the Bible to advise the aide to forgive their enemy. Pacquiao, as everyone knows, has a quote from the Good Book for every situation.
Suddenly, tension rises in the room as somebody makes his unmistakeable presence felt, as if Michael Buffer is about to let out his patented spiel from atop the ring: “Let’s get ready to rumble….” Out of one corner comes the dreaded challenger to the champion’s place as center of the Pacquiao universe—the impish, hyperactive and irrepressible Israel, Manny’s youngest. Not quite a year old, the toddler, in his nanny’s arms, comes charging to his daddy and starts a long playful sparring session as everyone else watches.
“He’s wet,” the champion tells the yaya. Obviously, the little rascal has had his warmup. Israel grabs his daddy’s ears, gouges his eyes and pulls his hair. He clings to daddy and won’t let go, like a badly-beaten fighter clinching, grabbing and waiting for the bell to save him. Even at home, Pacquiao is getting a good workout for his May 2 fight of the century against the wily and cunning Floyd Mayweather Jr. Israel is a good sparring partner. He is feisty, tenacious and relentless, just like a pit bull. Just like his father.
Mercifully, the bell rings for Manny Pacquiao. The yaya breaks up the fight with fresh clothes and lets the champion change the challenger. And so Manny becomes the nanny and escapes further punishment. “Bantay-bata muna ako,” he laughs.
‘Walang bawal sa akin’
Soon, late lunch (or is it early dinner?) is served. He invites everyone to the table, which can accommodate only a third of the dozens in the house. He motions to the new visitor to join him and, as soon as he settles down, a pastor leads a prayer in Cebuano, Pacquiao’s native tongue. (The pastor had left his flock in the Philippines and joined several others to minister to Pacquiao’s spiritual needs.)
Somebody hands Pacquiao a burger from Carl’s Jr., a big, sinful double-patty sandwich. “Did you buy this?” he asks his business manager, Michael Koncz, who is seated to his right.
“No, but I told someone to buy it for you,” Koncz replies. Manny had been craving a burger and Koncz recommended it to him.
“But are you supposed to eat that?” the visitor asks. “Well,” Manny says, “I eat anything. Walang bawal sa akin. I never had any weight problem. In fact, I have always been underweight in my fights. I should be 145, 146 pounds for the weigh in.”
At this point of his training, that’s below the 147-pound welterweight limit. That’s odd in the fight game, where boxers struggle to make the weight limit.
No mention of Mayweather
Having settled the diet issue, Manny takes a big bite of the burger, which is a signal for everyone else to start the meal. The dining table seats 10, so the rest of the people in the house eat in the kitchen. They all eat the same thing—fried rice, bulalo soup, broccoli with chicken and diced beef cooked tapa style, Manny’s favorite at the Thai restaurant outside Wild Card gym.
There’s hardly any mention of Mayweather or the big fight. The discussion on the table segues to how the fast-food burger is prepared. If you see the video of how the burger is made, you’ll never eat a burger again, says Manny. But he takes a few more bites of the burger and saves the last bite for Koncz, who gladly finishes it.
Koncz discusses business with Pacquiao while everyone else listens. The deal on head band for fight night is a go, says Koncz, but there’s one more space in his trunks. He then whispers something to Pacquiao, maybe more money for the deal.
Lunch is over and Pacquiao has to do one last bit of work for the day—a short interview with the few media men still around. They ask the same questions asked before and he gives the same answers he has given before, but he has a way of saying them like they were news. The media love him for that. Manny is his own spin doctor.
Twilight looms and the shadows of the palm trees outside Pacquiao’s house are lengthening. Finally, the journalists leave with another story, and the champion retires to his kingdom after another day’s hard work. There is no typical day in the life of Manny Pacquiao, boxing champ, politician, basketball player and coach, preacher, show biz entertainer, family man, philanthropist. Each day is different. Tomorrow is another day.
Simple pleasures: Pacquiao wolfs down a burger
For more updates on Pacquiao-Mayweather “Fight of the Century,” visit The Pacquiao Files.