Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao plays basketball with Team Pacquiao in an exhibition game against a hand-picked Dubai All-Stars side representing the UAE at Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Filipino world champion Manny Pacquiao is one of the top boxers today. He is known all over the world for his excellent fighting skills and for reaching a tremendous height of success. But he is more than just a boxer.

Today, he stands for change and for being a multi-faceted talent who has done well in several other sports. He has also tried his hand at several other fields, like music, and even serving in the army.

He won 10 world titles and is the first and only eight-division world champion. Pacquiao achieved the lineal championship titles in four different weight categories. Gulf News spoke to fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the star as he promoted the MP BL Dubai Invasion basketball event at Hamdan Sports Complex to get a lowdown about the boxer and Philippines senator:

WHELA JOY: Etihad Airline ground staff based in Abu Dhabi

Whela Joy

“Hailing from the same town of General Santos City, I’ve always felt connected with Manny because I know him personally. The house he grew up in is today a tourist attraction with a caretaker taking tourists around. He’s someone who follows his passion and walks the talk, both on and off the court or boxing ring. But if he does contest for the post of President I wouldn’t vote for him as he doesn’t have the experience to lead our country. He should continue boxing as long as he can, simply because that income allows him to reach out to poorer people from the Philippines.”

STEVEN CHERRY: American accountant working in Abu Dhabi

Steven Cherry

“I have grown through the fact that there are several of my Filipino friends who love and adore Manny Pacquiao. I am a big fan of many sports, but I follow boxing only because of Manny Pacquiao. He is a legend in his own right and no one can take his place. Imagine boxing without a personality like Manny. I appreciate the fact that he has stayed at a consistent level in boxing for such a long span of time. But now I think he should hang his gloves and keep his legend alive.

AVIGAIL FLORES: Make-up artist based in Abu Dhabi

Avigail Flores

“Two things that attract me to Manny Pacquiao are his personality and his large heart. Even though he didn’t have much while growing up, he has shown the entire world how people can touch the lives of others. He deserves every bit of praise and adulation as he has never shown even an inkling of pride. He treats everyone equal, irrelevant of who the other person is. Pacquiao is simply one of a kind.”

ALEX CASTRO: Amateur basketball player and salesman in a curtain company in Dubai

Alex Castro

“The situation in the Philippines is pathetic, with the poor getting even poorer. This is mainly due to corruption among the politicians. I feel Manny Pacquiao could be an answer to problems affecting our country. He has the potential of being the President as he is humble, kind and with a generous heart that is always giving. I don’t know him personally, but one of the things on my bucket list is that I get to meet him and touch him. That’s how much regard and respect I have for him.”

RONALD CAMACHO: Working in a cargo company

Ronald Camacho

“For all Filipinos, Manny is the greatest inspiration. He has shown us the way, not only as one of the top sportsman in the world, but someone who can be termed a legend. He’s a virtual star in the Philippines and his place in history is assured. I doubt anyone else can occupy that sort of place in our country. Maybe he should stop boxing now and concentrate on a career in politics simply because he may be the one who can make a difference for the Philippines. He’s already a Senator and this experience will help him get ready for a life after boxing.”

PETER CARONAN: Employee at Crystal International Cargo Services, Dubai

Peter Caronan

“He’s been a true inspiration, not just for an entire nation but for the entire world. He is someone who can show other top sportsmen the way on how to reach out to society and make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate. Time and again, Pacquiao has used his own money to help people and bring them out of poverty. It’s like he is boxing so that he can earn and use the same cash to bring about a transformation in society. But, my best advice to him would be to stay away from politics simply because he is unfit for the position of President of the Philippines. He will simply be inviting stress at this stage of his life.”

RONNIE RODEJO: Supply Chain Officer in Dubai company

Ronnie Rodejo

“Manny Pacquiao’s is the typical rags to riches story. He started off from nothing and today he is known all over the world as the biggest sportsman from the Philippines. He is a true ambassador for our country. I doubt there are too many people in the world who are as famous as Manny. On Friday, he came and addressed our fellowship meeting at Madinat Arena while giving us his testimony of his past life. I still think he’s got another two fights left in him, and one of them has to be a revenge bout against [Floyd] Mayweather.”

RONILO ROSERO: Driver working in JLT, Dubai

Ronilo Rosero

I’ve followed Manny since 2007 and one thing that stands out is his big heart. He’s got everything today and he wants to ensure he can reach out to the less fortunate. He has put the Philippines on the world map. He is my idol and I have been amazed with the rise of his status as one of the kindest human beings in the world today. I am proud of him and his achievements. My one dream would be to play in his team. But I know this is just a dream as I need to be either a politician or a famous sportsman to achieve this.

JAY MANIPOL: Deira resident working in a restaurant

Jay Manipo

“Everyone wants a piece of Manny Pacquiao. Even I am here today to see if I can possibly meet him and have a selfie with him. If I can get close to him then I am sure I will be able to do so. He has a lot of money, and yet he is so gracious and calm about his name and fame. To all Filipinos around the world, Manny Pacquiao is a super hero.”

Pacquiao facts: Things you possibly didn’t know about Manny Pacquiao

Born in Kibawe, Bukidnon, Philippines, on December 17, 1978, Pacquiao is the fourth among his six siblings — two siblings from the first husband of his mother and four siblings from his actual parents — Dionesia Dapidran-Pacquiao and Rosalio Pacquiao, who were separated when Pacquiao was in the sixth grade of junior school.

Young Pacquiao used to miss school so that he could help his mother by working in a laundry.

Pacquiao, who runs a charitable foundation, provides educational scholarships to 250 children. He spent his childhood in Mindanao, using cardboard boxes as a bed, while his first punchbag was made from a cardboard box stuffed with clothes.

Before Pacquiao became a successful boxer, he worked as a gardener and construction worker. He also used to sell doughnuts and chilled water on the streets.

He owns a Jack Russell terrier named Pacman, who accompanies him on his training runs.

Pacquiao has featured in a superhero-comedy film called ‘Wapakman’ that was released on December 25, 2009. He then signed as an actor with GMA Network in September 2007 and filmed his first episode of the networks’ infotainment show ‘Pinoy Records’ on December 17, 2007.

Forbes named Manny Pacquiao as the world’s sixth-highest paid athlete in 2009. And, he got that place for total earnings of nearly $40 million. Interestingly, that income equals the income of NBA superstar LeBron James during that year.

Pacquiao lives with his wife and five children in a luxurious mansion in General Santos City, Mindanao. The mansion is secured by armed guards 24x7. According to a Philippine law, the army will protect Pacquiao and his family in case of any danger.

In the beginning of his career, Pacquiao was underweight and so he used to put weights in his pockets to meet the weight limit of the matches. He began his professional career at 17 and started gaining popularity with a boxing TV show called Blow By Blow.

Pacquiao learnt how to play piano on his own. He also plays chess. Pacquiao has also tried his hand at singing. He released a single — Sometimes When We Touch — in the Philippines.

He’s the shortest man to play professional basketball in the Philippines.

Pacquiao’s fourth child, Queen Elizabeth, has dual nationality because she was born in the US. She has 48 godparents as well.

Manny Pacquiao became an honorary member of the Boston Celtics. He also received a replica of a green and white Celtics jersey by the Boston Celtics authority bearing his name and number.

He is also the first and only Olympic non-participant from the Philippines who served as flag-bearer at the Beijing National Stadium during the opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. He also became the first Filipino athlete and the only boxer to feature on a postage stamp.