“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.” -- Robert Quillen
I was contacted this week by one of our esteemed colleagues, boxing writer/ editor Lem Satterfield of FanHouse and Boxingscene, regarding this divide amongst Filipino boxing fans on Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. and this so-called "rivalry".
This is the Golden Age of Philippine Boxing. No doubt about it. There was a before, and there will definitely be an after, but allow me to give you a double dosage of reality: It will never, ever, be as good as this.
We have, arguably, the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world as of the moment. With the possibility of staying that way for a long time. A current, and a bright future. What's in the water back in General Santos? Ask Roger Mayweather, and he'll probably say A-side meth.
Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. may represent nothing more than two superb boxers to a lot of people, but to me, they represent a poetic irony about the Filipino culture- my culture. These two men are so alike, yet they are so different. I can go on and on and on writing analogies between the two and draw up paradoxes. Like how one was abandoned by his father, and then found boxing, and how the sport has defined him as a man. While the other sought to break away from his, to define himself as his own man after living his whole life trying to please his father which led him to becoming a world champion boxer. Like I said, I can go all day with this.
So what's really behind this so-called "rivalry"?
Well... It's culture.
When Pacquiao burst into superstardom, he gave Filipinos someone they can identify with. He instantly became the embodiment of the Filipino people, and he played it to a tee. He does after all, symbolize everything that's right about the Filipino people. You know, humble, unassuming, soft-spoken, fun-loving, charitable, hardworking, gregarious.. Everything "we Filipinos" want the world to think about us. Not only is Pacquiao a winner, he's the Filipino buddy everyone wants to invite for dinner.
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And then came The Filipino Flash. He is equally proud of his roots. Represents to the fullest. And yea, he was knocking people out left and right, similar to Pacquiao before him. But there's something different with this Filipino. He doesn't talk like Pacquiao. He's more articulate. And his fighting style isn't quite "like Mike" either. Instead of the usual come forward, toe-to-toe style Pacquiao patented that most Filipinos enjoy and try to emulate, Donaire dominates his opponents by outwitting them in the ring with his counterpunching, defense, and more cerebral approach to the sweet science.
Haters and outsiders used to heckle Filipino boxing fans by saying, "Pacquiao is all you got." Of course, anybody that has followed Philippine boxing knows the amount of ignorance in that statement, but the rise of Donaire obliterated that notion. Yes, there is more to Philippine boxing than Manny Pacquiao. He may have opened the doors, but he didn't build the house.
But how could it be? Donaire is nothing like Pacquiao. He is nothing like what is "expected" from Filipinos. Hardcore Filipino boxing fans frown upon him because of his swag. They say he's arrogant. Too outspoken. His fallout with his father and then trainer, just made it easier for the conservative types to cast their stones. How can you abandon your father over a girl? All of a sudden, Filipinos were putting the 'Brown' in Judge Joe Brown. "He's not a true Filipino," was their verdict. And therefore their support for him was divided.
It's culture... like I said.
See, in his formative stages, Flash moved to The Bay. The Bay may have Daly City and the Serramonte Mall where you could find a lot of Filipinos, but I'm telling you, it's nothing like the Philippines. Donaire may have been born in the Philippines, but for the most part, he had to live under American environs. And to be a Filipino, a minority, an immigrant, living in the US, you got to adapt if you want to belong, let alone, stand out. Donaire is a product of his environment. You have to understand how life is in these parts, to understand how a person's characteristics are molded. Why? Well they don't get "hyphy" in General Santos City now do they? If you can't follow, you are either too displaced, or too old. But thats the point.
Whatever Donaire is, and we've discussed it in the past repeatedly, that's him. Truth is, Filipinos are also, in every exact way like him. Yes. Let the hypocrites wash their hands of guilt, but I know being a Filipino myself, I got that swag in me too. I have that "Little Man Complex" which pushes me to prove myself that I can actually be better than you. And yes, we don't watch how we act and what we say at times too. Only difference is, Donaire has the cameras and the media documenting his every move, and criticizing his every mistake.
Man, it's time we all grew up.
I know we're not used to having this much attention. Heck, why else do you think we went gaga over Pacquiao? But guess what, not every Filipino is like Pacquiao. And who knows, even Pacquiao might not even be the Pacquiao you envision him to be. It's time that we appreciate the talents and contributions of these Filipino athletes for what they're truly worth, and leave the judging of character to either Judge Judy or Dr. Phil.
This is the Golden Age of Philippine Boxing. Enjoy it by supporting the talents of Filipino fighters inside the ring instead of wasting it by debating their personal lives. So what if one says 'he is just doing his job,' and the other says 'I knew I was going to knock him out'? At the end of the day, it is still a matter of preference, but just know, that no matter how different Donaire is from Pacquiao, they are no more Filipino than the other. They are both Filipinos. This rivalry is really not about Pacquiao vs. Donaire more than it is about the generation gap, and the cultural differences that exist amongst Filipinos and Filipino-Americans and 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation Fil-Ams. There is no real rivalry between Pacquiao and Donaire, but there is a divide amongst Filipino boxing fans.
So I pose the real question in this matter: Are Filipinos ready to have more than just one boxing superstar? A divide in a fan base is not bad. Remember Chavez vs. Dela Hoya, or better yet, Barrera vs. Morales? People will have their preferences, but the fact that you can choose, only suggests growth. Philippine boxing is here to stay and will continue to flourish. It's time that we all get used to it, instead of comparing apples from oranges. Appreciate.
Dennis 'dSource' Guillermo can be reached through e-mail at [email protected].