He’s running for office. Of all the details in various media reports about boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao, that’s the one that strikes me. Pacquiao will face Ricky Hatton in a sold-out fight in Las Vegas on Saturday. The bout is highly touted, and for good reason, since Hatton holds a world title (140-pounds) and Pacquiao is often thought to be the best boxer in the business. Neither man is a heavyweight but both generate heat. Pacquiao (“the Pac Man”) is a fit lefty with speed and power; Hatton (“the Hit Man”) is strong and aggressive. The guaranteed purse is $12 million per fighter.
I’m putting my money on Pacquiao’s political ambitions. He plans to run for Congress in his native Philippines. His national hero status, some say, makes him more popular there than the president. He has even met Imelda Marcus.
The Pac Man’s aim outside the ring is a reminder of the age-old tie between sports and politics. Combat sports probably offer the most cachet: the mere fact of being a heavyweight gladiator, for instance, gave Spartacus credibility. But any sports success will rub off on an office-seeker. In ancient Athens, for instance, the rogue politician Alcibiades climbed his record of sponsoring chariot-race winners at the Olympics all the way to a top military command. Next to that, American presidential golfers and basketball players seem low-key.
If Spartacus were running for Congress today, would his campaign slogan be “He’ll clean house the way he cleaned up in the arena”? Or maybe, “Now that’s what I call a left hook”?