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By Eddie Alinea
Fri, 09 Nov 2018

When Manny Pacquiao left Manila last week, he is an 11 fold boxing champion and in an unprecedented eight divisions at that.

He is scheduled to return home early evening today as an Ambassador of Goodwill after representing the sports of sweet science in a pair of speaking engagements at the Oxford University and Cambridge University.

The WBA welterweight champion and Sen. Manny Pacquiao was an invited speaker in the two prestigious learning institutions’ debating societies before jampacked audiences in their respective campuses on Monday and Tuesday.

Pacquiao, a self-confessed elementary school graduate who did not even reach high school, was invited to join the ranks of several distinguished speakers in the past, including Sir Winston Churchill, Robert Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, Benazir Bhutto, Albert Einstein and Margaret Thatcher.

Among the past sports personalities to have graced the two institutions’ affairs were George Foreman, David Haye, Vitali Klitschko, Chris Eubank, Boris Becker, Diego Maradona and Roger Bannister.

Like his past and present peers, Pacquiao belongs to the underprivileged, but talented men of the world given the chance to win wealth, recognition and respect by way of the sport they loved most and he unabashedly admitted that fact before his awed audiences.

Boxing, for all its lies, is about the truth and that was what the Pacamn impacted to his listeners. He admitted being intimidated in following in the footsteps of previous Unions speakers, but he dared to stand before them “armed with just the equivalent of a sixth form education, an undisguised respect for what your group and your university represent and a pretty fair left hook … if this give-and-take were a tale of the tape, I would be a respectful underdog but be careful, I’m not that easy to floor.”

Pacquiao narrated how he came out of a life of poverty and crawled to become a world boxing champion (in flyweight, super-bantamweight, featherweight, super-featherweight, lightweight, junior-welterweight, welterweight and super-welterweight) then legislator.

“Miracles do happen. Dreams do come true. Being poor does not mean one must die poor. Hard work and persistence will set you free from the shackles of poverty. But it is faith that will take you to the very top,” he told students, members of debating societies, school officials and their guests at Oxford.

The stature of Pacquiao, the pugilist and lawmaker, is in no way diminished with this admission, how should it be. Those words should have been uttered years ago for the fans of boxing and ring heroes.

He ended his speech at Oxford with a challenge to the Union, saying, “you, with your education, determination and faith, you can change the world.”

In Cambridge, the senator said: “I have not experienced how it is to pursue a degree like a regular university student. My circumstances were very different from yours. But I did not allow these circumstances to limit me… I continue to learn from the University called life.”

He cited a Filipino metaphor that goes “mas mahirap pa sa daga,” which translates to “more destitute than a rat. ”From a very young age, I had to struggle daily to survive. I fought hard. I faltered. I failed. Many times. But I learned to rise again each time I fell. Each setback became a platform for a comeback,” he said.

“Each one of you in this room can change the world. Have faith, persevere. Find your passion and heed your calling. I urge you, as the Roman poet Horace did: Carpe Diem -- seize the day.”

“And above all, FIGHT!”

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