Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao showing true leadership in fight against coronavirus

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Manny Pacquiao speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in New York. (AP/Andres Kudacki)

Sometimes, the passion the Filipino people have for Manny Pacquiao can be perplexing. Take, for instance, an online conversation about the greatest punchers in boxing history. If Pacquiao isn’t mentioned in the conversation, it’s all but a guarantee that a number of his countrymen will join the chat to complain.

It’s at times like these, though, when the eight-division world champion and Filipino senator is donating coronavirus test kits, protective equipment for healthcare workers and even buses to move the workers around to where they are needed that their worship of him is more easily understood.

Pacquiao, who currently holds a version of the WBA welterweight title, has stepped up in a big way in the battle against the global pandemic. There have been 462 cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines and 33 deaths, according to worldometers.info.

Pacquiao has not only put his boxing career on hold and donated his own money in the fight to help defeat the virus, but he told the Manila Bulletin he’ll work with Filipino citizens wherever he has to, even at some risk to his own health. He said he needs to be front-and-center in the fight against the coronavirus.

“If you are a leader, you have to be a front-liner,’’ Pacquiao told the Manila Bulletin. “You have to lead people and let people see that you are with them. I grew up poor. I know what they feel.”

It is his boxing skill that first brought him to the forefront in his nation of 100 million people. But Pacquiao has become an icon at home with his devotion to his fellow citizens and his willingness, and eagerness, to share his wealth to help those in need.

He’s spent his money on housing, hospitals, schools and churches, among other things, in the Philippines. Rarely, though, does he put himself at personal risk like he is doing in the coronavirus fight.

He told the Bulletin that he is not afraid to die, and wants to be where his help is needed most.

He needs to follow the advice of the medical experts, as well, though, because he is so critical to the country’s sense of well-being. 

He’s a leader in the truest sense of the word, though. 

His fast hands and knockout power brought him to the public’s attention, but it’s his kindness, his humanity, his generosity and his willingness to put the best interests of his countrymen above all which has made him an icon.

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