Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Larger than life. Manny Pacquiao may be just over 5’6″ inches tall but anyone familiar the champion fighter (the first and only boxer to win world titles in eight different weight divisions) and his life story realizes that his physical size belies his actual power — both physically and in force of personality. In 64 pro fights that include 57 wins, 38 KO’s, 2 draws and only 5 losses (aka temporary setbacks), he has taken down many a larger fighter. But it is his personal determination and charisma that really set him apart as perhaps biggest name in boxing since Muhammad Ali.  Sure, it was his fists that catapulted him from abject poverty in the Philippines (where he was raised in the Catholic faith before, later, becoming an Evangelical Protestant) but it’s been that spark of something extra that has propelled him to a seat in the Philippine Parliament (to which he was elected at age 32) and even a short-but-successful singing career.
This week, Pacquiao, who is currently in tense negotiations to fight undefeated American boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. , is busy promoting Manny, a new documentary about his struggles and accomplishments (which he credits to his faith in God). Manny debuts in theaters and On Demand tomorrow (1/23).
I recently had to the opportunity to go a round with Pacquiao — and by that I mean I got to ask him a few questions.  I then put some questions to producer Ryan Moore  who also co-directed the film (with Leon Gast). Moore, as you will read, had a personal reason for wanting to make this particular movie.

JWK: How does it feel to be the subject of a major documentary — to have this kind of worldwide interest in your life?

MANNY PACQUIAO: I feel so excited and happy for God to give me the opportunity for the movie Manny and I believe that I can inspire people of this life story.
JWK: How were you approached about the project?

MP: The director Ryan Moore called me and introduced an idea I couldn’t refuse.

JWK: What is it that the film reveals about you that people may not already know?MP: I wanted people to see what I have been through and to allow audiences and fans to see my life and journey that has led me to where I am today.JWK: I understand that you were raised Christian and are now a practicing Evangelical Christian. Can you tell me how and why you made the change?MP: I was raised Catholic and now I am a Christian and follow of the Lord Jesus Christ. I made the change because the Holy Spirit revealed a truth to me.

JWK: You grew up in incredible poverty and, through your success in the ring, now enjoy great wealth. How has your faith helped ground you and affected the way you handle fame and fortune?

MP: For me, It’s not about the wealth and fame. I am most concerned with my relationship to God, which is the most important.JWK: What role does faith play in the ring?MP: Faith is my motivation to win.

JWK: How are things looking for your fight with Floyd Mayweather? Are you feeling good about it?

MP: I have agreed to all of the negotiated terms and the only thing I’m waiting for is for Floyd to sign the contract. 

Update (from Prospects for a Floyd Mayweather, Jr., vs. Manny Pacquiao fight happening in 2015, which appeared highly positive just days ago when Pacquiao said he had agreed to all of Mayweather’s terms, now suddenly look bleak, as Mayweather and his camp appear to be waging a campaign to push Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, out of the talks for the fight.

As I alluded to above, for producer/director Ryan Moore Manny’s story is one that touches him personally.
JWK: Can you tell me about your own background?RYAN MOORE: I was born and raised in California until my family moved to the Philippines when I was 14. While living there, I learned that my mom, like Manny, grew up very poor. Seeing that kind of abject poverty firsthand during my travels deeply shaped my life. Seeing those living conditions motivated me to want to tell inspiring stories of struggle and triumph. Manny became the first story I knew I had to tell.

JWK: Can you elaborate?

RM: I wanted to make a film about Manny because he overcame extraordinary obstacles in order to become a world champion boxer. From fighting as a child to feed his family to fighting opponents almost 20 pounds heavier than him, Manny defies the odds. He is a real life David (vs Goliath) story.

Manny believes that he is where he is because of God. He credits all of his success to his faith and I admire that. Despite the fact that he’s small in size, he’s holds the Guinness World Record for most world titles in weight divisions. To top it all off, he’s the biggest thing to ever come out of the Philippines, so as a Filipino American I had to tell his story.

JWK: What surprised you most about Manny?

RM: For a small guy, I was surprised at how much he eats! In a single day while he’s training for a fight, Manny eats 7,000 calories and burns 5,000 of them. I guess when you run 8 miles, do 2,000 sit ups and box for 3 hours that’s kind of necessary.
JWK: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?RM: I want people to feel inspired by Manny’s story. I hope after audiences see the film, they are able to see the fighter in their own lives – that no matter how many times they get knocked down, they’ll get back up.JWK: What do you intend to tackle next?

RM: After I’m done working on Manny,  I’m really looking forward to directing my first scripted feature film.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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