COMMENTARY | Manny Pacquiao is deep in training camp, preparing for his upcoming November 23 fight against Brandon Rios. However, the Filipino legend could be quite distracted over the remaining two weeks before fight night, as his country deals with a much larger foe, the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which swept through the island nation leaving devastation and death in its wake.
Pacquiao has been training in his hometown of General Santos City. He wouldn't normally be training in the Philippines so close to a fight, however, his upcoming clash is slated for nearby Macau, China. As such, he opted to stay in the Philippines for his entire camp.
A Pacquiao spokesman made a statement last week that he and his team weren't directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan, as General Santos City lies well south of the typhoon's path. Nevertheless, even if he wasn't directly impacted, Pacquiao will surely feel a heavy burden.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) is more than a sports icon in his home country, of course. He's now an elected official, serving in the Philippine House of Representatives from Sarangani's Lone District. There's approximately 500,000 people living in Sarangani as of 2010 population estimates, and many of them will be in dire need of assistance - food and other aid supplies, electricity, shelter, and so forth.
Preparing for a fight against "Bam Bam" Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) is suddenly far less important than it was a week ago. Pacquiao may rightfully find his time, energy and mental focus moving away from his highly anticipated return to the squared circle and towards his people.
Currently, the Philippine Red Cross estimates at least 1,200 deaths from the storm, but the International Committee of the Red Cross said its "realistic" to estimate that 10,000 or more people died across the country. The number of people affected by the tragic storm though is already in the millions, with hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.
Most observers believe that Rios is a tailor-made opponent for Pacquiao's comeback, but he's by no means a fighter to take lightly or look past. He's aggressive, determined and powerful, with a penchant and a passion for toe-to-toe exchanges and grueling battles. Meanwhile, Pacquiao hasn't fought in nearly a year, and he's coming back from a crushing knockout loss at the hands of rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
In other words, Pacquiao needs to be on his game here, even against an opponent he's favored to beat, and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan is simply going to make that much more difficult. Rios will quickly find out how distracted he actually is, and just how hard Pacquiao was training over his final two weeks of camp.
Pacquiao may be able to wade on through training in the belief that for the next two weeks, he needs to prepare his hardest and give his people some much needed relief in the form of their hero having a triumphant return to the ring. From there, he can shift his priorities to politics and the people he represents.
Yet, Pacquiao may find it hard to compartmentalize his political duties and his training in this trying time for his country. Who wouldn't?
With no other news from Pacquiao or his team, it's unlikely that the fight will be postponed at this point. So we'll just have to wait and see if Pacquiao is in the right physical condition, and right state of mind, for his fight against Rios.
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