I didn’t know when this practice started, but I noticed that Manny Pacquiao has a flag bearer in his jogging sessions. A guy whose sole job is to carry the Philippine flag.
He was there, waving the flag while Manny did his cooling down exercises.
I was reminded of that when I read Kevin Iole’s wonderful story on Yordenis Ugas, the guy who’s taking over Errol Spence in Sunday’s title clash against the Filipino legend.
Both fought their way out of poverty and both continue to represent their country on their own way in the ring.
Pacquiao, 42, never had a chance to fight in the Olympics and the closest he got was being the flag bearer in Beijing, the first time I think that a non-Olympian was a country’s ring bearer. Yugas, 34, fought in Beijing, winning a bronze medal for Cuba.
He would fight three more times, all at home, but according to Iole, in 2010 he finally succeeded in defecting to the US after six previous failed attempts all landed him in jail.
“I’m a fighter not only inside of the ring but outside of the ring. I fight for the freedom of my people... I hope everyone fighting for freedom in Cuba is safe and knows that I’ll be fighting for them on Saturday,” he told Iole.
Pacquiao, of course, has always said he fights for the Filipinos and the Philippines, a claim his critics—growing in number because of his political jabs—scoff at. You wouldn’t be fighting for anyone or anything if not for the right price, they say.
Still, we can’t deny that in his fights, Pacquiao does try to represent the Philippines and represent it well. (That he’s missing in action in his other job as a senator is, well, another thing.)
He’s respectful and not brash; he always shows that there’s another way to promote a fight than selling a drama.
Basically a gentleman; the perfect person who you want to represent your country on the sport’s biggest stage. And opposite him on Saturday is someone, who I’m sure is looked up to by people in his home country who also dream of fighting their way out of poverty.
Of course I’m rooting for a Pacquiao victory but after learning of his story, I hope Ugas makes the most of the limelight—not only for himself but for his people.