Athletes sometimes wait until it’s too late to change their evil ways. It’s possible boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao is not one of them.
He better hope that’s the case. It sounds like his shenanigans nearly cost him his wife.
As it is, they could have played a role in his not-so-impressive performance in a controversial majority decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez last November.
Since that fight it has come to light that Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) – who Saturday will defend his welterweight belt against Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view) – had been leading a less-than-savory personal life. One that included infidelity, too much drinking and too much gambling.
It all led to marital problems and a situation where Pacquiao’s wife, Jinkee, initially refused to leave her room at the MGM Grand and go down to the arena with her husband for the Marquez fight, according to a longtime camp insider who asked to remain anonymous.
Pacquiao would not go, either, until she relented. When she finally did Pacquiao supposedly had less than 10 minutes to warm up prior to making his ring walk. He was cold.
Perhaps worse, he was unfocused on the task at hand.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, told this newspaper recently, “It was a lot more mental than it was physical,” in explaining Pacquiao’s unconvincing victory over Marquez.
Pacquiao apparently is a new man. A lifelong Catholic,
he has been attending New Life Christian Center in Metro Manila, the Philippines, since December. He vows he is done running around, and that he has a better relationship with God than ever.
Sounds like this transformation is coming just in time. According to Roach, Jinkee Pacquiao was close to calling it quits.
“Going into the fight, like a week before the fight, his wife was like filing for divorce and they weren’t getting along and he was chasing girls or whatever, yeah,” Roach said. “So he gave up that, he gave his (fighting) cock farm away, free; he gave it away. He gave his nightclub away, he hasn’t had a drink in over a year and he stopped chasing girls.
“He is back with his wife, and they go to Bible study three times a day.”
Pacquiao, of course, is not the first high-profile athlete to womanize.
“The thing is, you know, put yourself in his shoes,” Roach said. “You know, girls, night life. Everything that goes with it, he was joining in on.”
As long as his promoter, Bob Arum, has been around, he apparently hasn’t seen all that many superstars successful at being faithful.
Heavyweight champion George Foreman was one of them who did during his comeback following a decade-long retirement. He had something others didn’t.
“George had spent 10 years as a minister, he had a real good connection with God and there was no even minutest question whether George would stray or not,” Arum said. “He had remade himself.”
Arum said Foreman’s deep spirituality was what helped him avoid the temptations. Pacquiao said he realizes his spirituality was not as strong as he thought. Just the other day at his training headquarters at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, he said, “It’s not enough to pray.”
Now, it’s about reading the Bible. And living by it.
“I’m changing and reading my manual to life; the Bible, obeying the commandments of God,” Pacquiao, 33, said. “I’m obeying the commandments of God. It’s my destiny. God called me to follow.”
When the subject of his infidelity was broached, Pacquiao looked uncomfortable. He didn’t address it specifically, instead citing a verse from the Bible.
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” he said, quoting Mark 3:25. “You have to have a lot of spirit.”
Pacquiao didn’t have enough. He was going through the motions, and his mentor at New Life Christian Center – Pastor Jeric Soriano – understands that.
“I was also a Catholic once,” Soriano said. “What happens is there is a tendency to adopt a lot of traditional practices. You grew up in this traditional-type of church and you are told to do this by your parents. It comes to a point where you are mechanically doing this and not really understanding.”
Soriano said he believes Pacquiao is still Catholic, but that he has become more spiritual by coming to his church – which has about 5,000 parishioners.
“You can come to know God in a personal way versus a traditional way,” Soriano said. “I think that is what Manny discovered, when he started reading the Bible, that God is the Bible and how personal it can be.”
Soriano said he expects Pacquiao to keep his head where it’s at.
“I realize there was a difference,” Soriano said via telephone from Las Vegas, where he will attend Saturday’s fight. “People were saying to me, `It was a carnival last year, and now it is not.’ His wife is here, he’s hugging his kids. I’m seeing fruit he is bearing now.
“Let’s also remember we are still human and we are in this body. There are still all kinds of temptations. His focus is to please God. He is serious about that. I don’t think he is ever going to go back to those things of the past.”
Last week at Wild Card, one got the impression he won’t go back. His eyes got big when asked about how nice it is to be able to train knowing his personal life is in much better shape.
“You have peace of mind, you have love,” he said. And, “self control.”
Sounds like Pacquiao might be winning another kind of fight.
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