Pound for pound, Manny Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world. But even more important than holding that distinction, Manny has connected with the people of his home country, the Philippines, to the point where he's almost like a god. The people have rallied behind him and feel like they're a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class. The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela's influence in South Africa. I can surely see Manny becoming the Philippine President one day.
In fact, he already ran for Congress in the Philippines but lost, in part because voters thought he could do more for the country as an inspirational champion boxer. I agree with the Filipino people. Manny, 30, already has a true global reach, and his influence will only expand as he gets better. Manny is from the Muhammad Ali school. He's a boxer, a puncher and a mover — a champion in four weight divisions. He doesn't stand there and take shots. He throws that wicked jab and is so quick to dodge trouble.
Boxing needs a guy like Manny. Too often, when something positive develops, the sport takes two steps backward; you never know where the black eye is going to come from. With Manny, you don't have to worry about that. He just loves the sport and knows he's carrying the hopes of his country in the ring.
Lewis, the former world heavyweight champion, is a boxing commentator for HBO Sports
Fast Fact: Pacquiao is the first athlete the Philippine Postal Corp. has honored with his own stamp
Photos from Time Magazine website