BILL DWYRE

Manny Pacquiao is taking the fight to Typhoon Haiyan in relief effort

Boxer Manny Pacquiao wept when he went home to Philippines and saw devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in November. Then he got to work.

There is no crying in boxing.

Not unless you are Manny Pacquiao, you are visiting a part of your country hit by a typhoon and you are overwhelmed by the death and devastation.

It was Dec. 1, 22 days after Typhoon Haiyan had sent its 200-mph winds and tsunami-tossed ocean through the heart of the Philippines, a country that is made up of 7,107 islands and spreads 1,000 miles from north to south.

Pacquiao and his party showed up to do what they could to heal and soothe. He was bringing Bibles to read to them, preparing inspirational speeches to deliver.

Then he saw it.

"I cried," he says, clearly stricken again at the memory.

"I saw it on TV, but you can't really see until you are there. Then, it hits you. The winds were 200 miles an hour. Cars were tossed around like paper.

"There were no homes. Everything was flat. It smelled like decay. Everything did.

"I just was crying."

A week earlier, on Nov. 24, he had been almost a fairy tale hero to the people among whom he was now walking, and sleeping, in their tents. Pacquiao had fought Brandon Rios in yet another of his multimillion-dollar boxing matches that had made him the pride of the Philippines.

That fight was in China. They had somehow telecast it into a huge plaza in the most devastated place of all, the central city of Tacloban.

Hundreds of people died in Tacloban. Just two weeks later, thousands gathered to watch on the big screen, as Pacquiao gave Rios a boxing lesson and Filipinos their first good news in a while.

Now, he was there in person, his first stop on his emotional tour. He carried the burden of morale-boosting. Also, perhaps, some guilt.

You see, Pacquiao isn't just a popular boxer. He is also a popular politician, in a country that cares about its politics almost more than anything else. He is the second-term congressman from the southern province of Sarangani.

When the typhoon hit, he was training at home in General Santos City, where the day stayed hot and sunny. When Haiyan hit to the north, both the country and Pacquiao were torn, one literally and the other figuratively.

It wasn't his district. But he is a national icon. He is also a possible future president of the country, once he works his way through his next political step, a Senate seat.

Should he break training camp for the Rios fight and go to the people? How could a sporting event be more important than people suffering and dying? Or might it be, especially in light of the likelihood that he would only get in the way of the rescue and cleanup. Might not a victory in the ring do more to boost the country's morale than a photo-op walk through the rubble?

Pacquiao wanted to go. That is his nature — sharing and giving. The lines of people around his home in General Santos, those seeking food and money, are legendary. It is said that nobody leaves empty-handed.

His trainer, Freddie Roach, says he was the realist, the bad guy. Pacquiao listens seriously to only a handful of people. Roach is one of them.

"I told him he couldn't go, he couldn't leave training camp," Roach says. "It was too close to the fight. I made the call."

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