Manny's chances according to odds were slim, to none. Some “experts” believed that he was still raw and unpolished. Others even claimed that he was being fed to the lions, a stepping stone if you may say so, for Sasakul's glorious path ahead.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Note: Today is Skewed Logic's Birthday and this is our 50th post. Go figure... :)
On December of 1998, a contender from the Philippines named Manny Pacquiao was scheduled to face one of the most highly touted and feared champions in the history of the flyweight division; Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand. The fight is for the WBC's flyweight diadem, held by Sasakul, whom during that time was on an 13 fight winning streak. This includes avenging his then lone defeat, against Yuri Arbachakov, in route to winning the title and defending it twice.
Manny was then only known by relatively few, by those whom you call real boxing followers, as oppose to casual boxing fans, through his exposure in the weekly boxing program blow by blow. Though he is on an 11 fight winning streak, not that much was expected from Pacquiao. The general feeling then was, that it would take a miracle for Manny to come up victorious.
On that same year, and on that same month, a collection of the Philippines and PBA's stars was scheduled to lock horns with the rest of Asia. Their task was for the nth time, regain the glory for Philippine Basketball.
Without a doubt, this team was composed of the most popular and highest paid celebrity cum athletes in the land. A virtual who's who of Philippine pro basketball. The Millionaire's club, with house hold names of PBA MVPs; Patrimonio, Caidic, Abarrientos, Duremdes, Meneses, among others. This is also a time wherein the PBA is still relatively popular, and the premiere sports entertainment in town.
Though not expected to breeze through the competitions, still expectations were high for the Centennial Team. Anything less than silver would be disappointing. They were taking with them the full support of a country celebrating 100 years of Independence. Added to that, they were carrying the momentum of having won the R. William Jones Cup title against the home team of Chinese Taipei.
True enough, the early stages of Manny's fight went as expected. That is, Manny being pummeled, battered, and bruised. It is like watching the “experts” analysis and prediction coming to life.
After surviving an unexpected scare against the “lowly” Kazakhs, everything went well for the Centennials. They won their next three games by an average winning margin of close to 38 point per game. They were about to face South Korea's National team as its final game in the quarter finals. Winning against SK would mean avoiding China in the semifinals, and a stronger chance of entering the finals.
But the tide changed for Manny starting the 6th round. Though obviously down on points, Manny crept, and fought back. Slowly, you could feel that the momentum was going Manny's side. A left straight to the jaw floored the proud Champion of Thailand on the 8th round. The fallen champ tried to get his feet back on the floor. But the hit was so devastating that the champ wasn't able to beat the count. A new champion was crowned.
The game against South Korea proved to be the pivotal point of the Centennial's campaign. They suffered an ego blowing 20 point loss against the Koreans, that was attributed to poor scouting, over confidence, and Kang-Dong Hee. The team then gave the eventual champions China all it can handle, yet succumbed in the end, losing by a respectable 9 point margin. In the battle for 3rd place, it took an individual heroic of Jojo Lastimosa to get us over the hump, against the “lowly” Kazakhs, thus salvaging some pride and a bronze medal in the process. Yet, a disappointing finish nonetheless.
From then on, we already know what happened since it is now part of the proverbial history. Manny Pacquiao (as opposed to Phillipine boxing) soared into unprecedented heights in terms of popularity and significance. With his, guts, determination, humility, charm, and dedication to the flag, he single handedly carry Philippine sports, and the country in general as well. He made the Philippines and its people, proud and significant in the global scale. A true, legitimate international personality, that is Filipino. And it would not be a farfetched idea to say that he paved the way for more Filipinos to be recognized.
Philippine's International Basketball on the other hand, decided to go elsewhere. We endured one of the most painful defeats in our history of international competition during our return to ASIAD in 2002. Some teams masqueraded as our National Teams represented us in various International tournaments being massacred and molested, thus cementing our status as Asia's whipping boys. And who would forget the suspension of our National Federation from FIBA, that disqualified us from International competitions. In short, Philippine basketball went to the netherworld.
World's apart indeed. But is change on the horizon?
To be concluded...