Ex-Catholic Manny Pacquiao, pictured here with a Catholic priest who is a fan, lost the WBO Welterweight title to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. May 2.
Religion has loomed large in the Pacquiao -Mayweather rivalry for years. The Filipino fighter, whose fans are overwhelmingly Catholic, embraced an evangelical Protestant form of Christianity after being raised Catholic.
In 2012, when Pacquiao suffered his first knock out at the hands of Juan Manuel Marque, his mother blamed the loss on his son’s newfound Protestant faith.
“That’s what he gets for changing his religion,” Pacquiao’s mother, Mommy Dionisia, was quoted saying in the Philippine press. “Since the ‘Protestant’ pastors came into his life, he has not focused on his boxing. I hope he listens to me when he returns, and be a Catholic again.”
Then, last September, after Mayweather taunted Pacquiao, calling him “Miss Pacman,” Pacquaio responded by saying he was “praying for Floyd Mayweather to fear God and change his ways.”
And so it was that some Christians were fixated on the religious implications of the big fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao is a defender of women – and of motherhood. He teamed up with the Catholic Church to oppose a bill in the Philippines that would legalize abortion and spread the contraceptive mentality that has so devastated the West.
Catholics have reciprocated the support. Among his many Catholic fans is one priest who has said Mass for him on the morning of every major fight for years.
“The highest form of prayer is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” said Fr. Marlon Beof, “and no matter your religion, we’re all praying for Manny to win. This is Manny’s biggest fight ever and this will be his biggest victory.”
The Pacquiao -Mayweather fight bears little resemblance to the Rocky Balboa-Apollo Creed matchups in Rocky I and II, but some Catholics hope the plotlines merge in two respects.
First, there is on-again, off-again talk of a rematch — just like when Creed beat Balboa by decision.
And if the prayers of Pacquiao’s fans keep moving him, the second would be that he rediscover his place in the Church. And we know what that did for Rocky.