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People's Choice
Andrew Marshall
May 17, 2010
In a stunner, Manny Pacquiao shows political clout in his homeland
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May 17, 2010

People's Choice

In a stunner, Manny Pacquiao shows political clout in his homeland

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It wasn't quite Douglas Beats Tyson, but politically, Manny Pacquaio's huge lead on Monday in the election for a seat in the Philippine congress still qualified as a major upset. Despite his celebrity, the welterweight champion was considered the underdog against a well-financed political heavyweight, Roy Chiongbian, a U.S.-educated businessman whose family had a decades-old stranglehold over local politics in Sarangani (pop. 411,713), in the nation's South. "I'm not surprised," said a grinning Pacquaio, amid euphoric scenes at his two-room campaign headquarters in General Santos City, where his staffers gleefully compared the likely victory to Pacquiao's demolition of Oscar de la Hoya in 2008. "I worked hard for this election."

Pacquiao's campaign effectively began two months ago at Cowboys Stadium, where he pounded Joshua Clottey of Ghana to retain his WBO welterweight title. His victorious return to the Philippines segued neatly into a surprisingly well-oiled effort. Why a career in politics? "I want to help my people," Pacquiao has replied. But for a 31-year-old boxer, politics is also a retirement plan. Several Filipino athletes have won public office, which in the Philippines can be parlayed into lasting wealth and influence. Paradoxically, victory at the polls might dim Pacquiao's stellar reputation. Many Filipinos fear that Pacquiao—a rags-to-riches hero who can step out of a bulletproof Hummer and still look humble—would be polluted by politics. Nor, it should be added, do they want him to give up boxing.

That won't happen, says his promoter, Bob Arum, who joined Pacquiao on the hustings and has been representing him in negotiations for the sport's most desired matchup: a fight with undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. If the bout comes off, Arum reckons the boxers will split a sum "well north of $80 million." Despite his considerable earnings, Congressman Pacquiao could use the paycheck. One Team Pacquaio staffer puts the price tag on his campaign at almost $7 million.

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