"It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt
I've had a long-standing love affair with the brutal sport of boxing. I love the big fights. I love the small fights. I love the winners and, depending on the fight in the dog, the losers. Before I was married (and later divorced), I even had my bachelor party at "Mickey Ward vs Arturo Gatti 3," to the chagrin of some of the men that attended. To hell with them. I was never into strippers anyway.
I've also had a long-standing love affair with the Internet. AllHipHop.com, my company, was founded in the late 1990s and blossomed in the 2000s. I feel like I've seen it all online, from the inside to the outside. The AllHipHop Ill Community is just that—ill. It's a monster that we created in many ways and it continues as such. But, the Internet has changed in the advent of social media, viral connections and a larger, more sinister monster has emerged. This beast is merciless with yellow teeth and it comprises of millions of collective people that band together in waves, surrounding the epic moments in history. It all started humorously, I believe, maybe even innocently.
Manny Pacquiao in an epic bout by knockout to his long-running rival Juan Manuel Márquez. The dirty ball of jokes and spectator humor traveled downhill rapidly and collected more and more filth as it descended into a full-fledged mudslide. Every fool with a photo app, Twitter account or Facebook page was sharing pictures that only a few people had actually created. People were seemingly getting their rocks off. There were pictures of him laying on the beach, or with Michael Jackson leaning over top him saying "Manny are you okay?" Seriously, these were funny and others, funnier. But, as it went on, these humorous exploits became uglier and more mean-spirited.
I was done with the jokes when one of my Twitter followers (and one-time college classmate) responded to a Pac Man quote I tweeted with "RIP."
(The gem of a tweet said: "It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.” - Manny Pacquiao. )
My blood started to boil a bit at the notion that somebody would find that a fair response to a man the was still very alive and still had a career in this sport should he choose to.
I am Manny Pacquiao.
The quote that began this phenomenal op-ed is one by Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. I don't know much more about Teddy, but I put this quote to memory in the 1990s and it has followed me through every stage of my life. From it I draw a lot of strength particularly when I have gone through trying times with an audience in full view.
Maybe I'm getting sensitive as life goes on, but I felt for Manny. In fact, I was definitively prompted to write this after I saw a picture of a smiling Manny consoling his doting wife, who appeared to be weeping uncontrollably. I felt their pain and then, with the backdrop of callous jokes and sideline commentary, grew angrier. I thought about my recent trials as a single father and as a divorcee. Then I thought about my toil to get where I am now, which as far as I am concerned, is as far from the top as the day I started. Then, I thought about losing my father and other family members and overcoming struggle after struggle after struggle. And, subsequently overcoming each struggle or facing those trials that remain until they crumble in an absolute battle of attrition.
Manny Pacquiao isn't retiring. He's a champion beyond the wildest dream of the jokesters and the mean jerks.
For one, he's risen to the top from absolute poverty in the Philippines, not the American style of hardship. Half of the population there lives on about $2 per day. Manny provided for his family working in construction and a bakery to provide after his father abandoned them. As he continued to work, the screwy Pacquiao discovered boxing. And he rose and rose and rose to the top over the top. The man is a champion in more weight classes than any champion in the history of boxing. Fact. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," some may heckle. But these are backstories I like to hear. The story of the struggle. The real story. Most tales aren't as epic as Manny's and there are so many quick—yet relevant—flashes in the historic pan, like Dewey Bozella. He spent 26 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit only to fulfill a dream of a single professional fight at 52. He won.
Perhaps that I why I am infatuated with boxing. The great commentator Jim Lampley recently said during a live broadcast, "Boxing is not a game ....you don't play boxing. You do this. You fight for your life." To me, boxing represents real life and always has. You fight. You get knocked down. You get up. Even if you lose, you can win as a boxer. That's why the aforementioned fight with Ward and Gatti was significant. I don't even remember the winner. It didn't matter. They weren't even champions, but they had lion hearts beating in them. A lot of people that were pointing fingers at Manny have already been unwittingly permanently knocked down into an existence where there's little risk, little reward.
This is what being a man is about and, to me, the rest, are likely well-dressed cowards.
So, nowadays when I stumble, I don't even trip. I just hope to be relevant enough to hear some commentary in the periphery.
PS: Manny's entire homeland will greet him with a hero's welcome, despite the incredible loss to Juan Manuel Márquez. Through all the adulation of Manny, I'm an even bigger Floyd Mayweather fan. But, champs recognize champs. Lots of people were unfamiliar on Saturday night.
Now, find the joke in that.
Chuck "Jigsaw" Creekmur is a father, son and the co-founder of AllHipHop.com. He's a cultural critic, pundit and trailblazer that has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, The O’Reilly Factor, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 FM and like a zillion other outlets.