For a better part of my life, I’ve watched you grow into the legendary boxer you are. You’ve beat the odds and done the impossible: fighting for your life. Literally. You’ve fought your way out of poverty to help provide for your family. You became a boxing sensation in every sense of the phrase. From bantamweight to middleweight, you’ve done it all. Boxing’s only eight world division champion in eight different weight classes. Boxing’s only world champion to hold world titles in four different decades. And many, many more accolades under your name.
Before each of your fights, I would always watch tapes of your opponent just like you would during training. I also wanted to know what strategy you would implement for each fight. It kind of became a tradition for me in a sense where I was a part of your training camp team.
Every time you walked down towards the ring with a smile on your face, I knew that when the final stare down came your demeanor would change in an instant. And that’s what made you one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport of boxing.
You’re truly a once in a generation athlete. You’ve fought everyone and anyone that stood in your way to greatness although that fight against Floyd Mayweather happened later than it should’ve been. But that’s besides the point.
You’ve inspired not only myself but many other people around the world. Especially our fellow country people of the Philippines. If it weren’t for your talents inside the ring, I don’t think I would embrace my Filipino culture the way I do today. I could assume that many people can attest to that statement as well. You became a renaissance man for our motherland and put the Philippines on the map. You showed the world our people and what we can do when we work hard. I will forever be indebted to you and all the hard work you put into this sport.
As you head into retirement, I just want to thank you for everything that you’ve given to boxing. Your dedication and hard work is nothing but an inspiration to become the greatest. Thank you for giving me a reason to be proud of being Filipino. Watching you as a kid made me realize that I can succeed in whatever I did as a Filipino-American as long as I work hard for it. Thank you for giving my dad and I some of the best memories we have together as father and son. I’ve watched a majority of your fights with my dad. I cherish those times with him because we both knew that you inspired us in ways you can’t imagine.
I couldn’t have been more honored and privileged to have watched you for a majority of your legendary 26 year career. Boxing will not be the same with you but I have comfort in knowing you’re at peace with your decision. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”. And this chapter in your life has ended as you continue your political career as a senator vying to become the next president of the Philippines. But one thing is for sure to happen in your post-boxing life: going into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Guaranteed first ballot.
Maraming salamat Manny. The greatest to ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves.