Saturday night, Mitt Romney, as a guest of the Nevada Athletic Commission, attended the MGM Grand Garden Arena boxing match between eight-division world champion, Manny Pacquiao, and WBO light-welterweight champion, Juan Manuel Marquez. As reported in the Washington Post, the former presidential candidate stopped by to wish the fighter, a socially conservative politician in his home country of the Philippines, good luck before the fight. Aides introduced Romney to Pacquiao, and Romney clarified with “Hi, Manny. I ran for president and lost.”
By late Saturday night, Pacquiao had lost too, and unlike Mitt Romney, Manny Pacquiao isn’t accustomed to losing. He hasn’t suffered a KO since 1999, and this fight was only his second straight defeat.
Besides losing the most important fights of their lives, the two men share many other similarities. Like Romney, Pacquiao is active in his church and is, in fact, a Bible preacher. Also like Romney, he doesn’t let a little thing like his religion interfere with business. He reaffirms that religion hasn’t changed his killer instinct.
And of course, they both have enjoyed political careers. Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts and has twice run for President of the United States. In May 2010, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives in the 15th Congress of the Philippines, representing the province of Sarangani. He has a goal of becoming Vice-President in 2016 though, currently, the Philippine Constitution requires a candidate to be at least forty-years-old to run for vice-president, which means Pacquiao will be too young. His ultimate goal is to be president of his country. He has made his political aspirations clear.
Saturday night, Romney and his wife Ann witnessed the second biggest fight of 2012 and the ending of a rivalry that began in 2004.
Pacquiao vs. Marquez I in 2004 ended in a draw. Later, one of the judges admitted to making an error in scoring and acknowledged that his mistake cost Manny Pacquiao the WBA and IBF featherweight belts. The decision was made for a 2008 rematch. Pacquiao vs. Marquez II was a split decision by the judges, but Pacquiao was given the victory. In November 2011, Pacquiao vs Marquez III left the boxing community stunned. Pacquiao had struggled more than usual during the fight and, while waiting for the judges decision, most boxing fans felt that Marquez had clearly won the fight. When the judges announced a majority decision for Pacquiao, the crowd, boxing fans worldwide, and audiences at home were shocked. Pacquiao himself looked shocked for a moment, though he quickly countered with, “It’s very clear that I won the fight.” The controversy was such that promoter Bob Arum called for an investigation.
It couldn’t be left at that. This had to be finished.
As reported by the New York Times, on December 8th 2012, Juan Manuel Marquez ended all indecision. In the sixth round of Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV, Marquez landed a devastating right hand that flattened Manny Pacquiao face down on the canvas. The decision wasn’t left in the hands of the judges this time The referee didn’t even bother to count. The rivalry was over.
After being revived with smelling salts, Manny Pacquiao sat up only a few feet away from Mitt Romney, who was sitting ringside with his wife, Ann.
After the fight, Pacquiao’s wife, Jinkee, appealed on camera for her husband to hang up his gloves and leave the sport. In an interview, she was asked if she wanted her husband to retire, and she replied:
You know the answer to that. He knows what I am asking him. When you see your husband get hurt, you cannot even sleep.
Jinkee’s remarks bear an eerie resemblance to those of Ann Romney’s 2008 video, in which she expressed her desire that he not run for political office again. In October 2012, she commented on The View, “If Mitt loses, we’re done with politics.” Later, after taking blows from high-profile members of the GOP, she pleaded in an interview with Radio Iowa:
Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring.
Unlike Romney, however, Pacquiao may still have a future as a boxer, according to his trainer, Freddie Roach, who shot down speculation that this fight will end Pacquiao’s career. “I don’t think it’s the end of Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said in a post-fight press conference.
Pacquiao cried in an interview because he let his country down, but he said he will fight again and would welcome a fifth bout with Marquez.
If you give us a chance, we’ll fight again,” Pacquiao said. “I was just starting to feel confident and then I got careless. I thought I was getting him in the last couple of rounds but I got hit by a strong punch. I never expected that punch.
“I’ll call it Pacquiao-Marquez 5: Epic,” legendary promoter Bob Arum declared.
While Manny’s future in boxing is up in the air, unlike Romney, he does still have a job in politics, and because he is a beloved icon in his home country, he has a solid chance of meeting his goal of holding the highest office in his land.
If Romney felt empathy, he didn’t show it. The New York Times reported that he told Bob Arum, this was the best night of my life. Indeed. Almost exactly a month ago, he had his worst.
32 days after Mitt Romney lost the greatest battle of his life, he watched the action in the ring with the intensity that he has shown during the past two years of political campaigning. He witnessed someone else losing the fight of his life after seemingly having the upper hand. It’s possible that Romney was the only person in the arena that night who understood what Pacquiao felt as he said post-fight: “I was just starting to feel confident.”