Manny Pacquiao: Boxing's Biggest Star

Boxing's biggest star Manny Pacquaio also is a singer, actor and politician.

March 12, 2010, 5:30 PM

March 13, 2010— -- When Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao isn't hitting his opponents, he's hitting the high notes -- or at least trying to.

With two platinum albums under his belt, Pacquiao is a bona fide pop star in the Philippines, perhaps owing his success mostly to his popularity rather than his singing talent.

Pacquiao recently showed off his singing on late night American TV, offering his rendition of "Nothing Is Going to Change My Love for You" by Glenn Medeiros on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to a rousing ovation. Even Simon Cowell might be wary of belittling the musical talent of the welterweight champion of the world.

Pacquiao, 31, one of the most accomplished boxers in history, with a record seven titles in seven different weight classes, is too busy to worry if his singing isn't as good as his punching.

"Manny is a multi-tasker. He loves to stay busy," said Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach.

Singing isn't Pacquaio's only hobby outside the ring. He also acts. He's made seven films in the Philippines. His latest is an action film called "Wapakman."

"I play a super hero with a lot of powers," Pacquiao said. "It's kind of like Spider-Man mixed with Superman."

In the Philippines, Pacquiao's popularity is god-like. They say the crime rate drops when he fights because everyone is watching him on TV.

The shine even rubs off on Roach, a Boston guy with huge street cred in Manila.

"They say it's Manny, the president and then me -- the most popular people in the Philippines," Roach said.

Pacquiao is so popular and committed to his country that he is heading home after his next fight to run for Congress.

"In the Philippines, we need a leader that really wants to help the poor people," said Pacquiao, who lost his first bid for a congressional seat to a well-established incumbent in 2007. "I have experience being nothing, and I know how they feel."

Manny Pacquiao: Rags to Riches

Abandoned by this father, Pacquiao left home as a teenager because his mother didn't have enough money to feed him.

At first, boxing was just a way to eat. Now, after 55 professional fights, Pacquaio is the biggest star in a sport badly in need of new big stars.

Last year, Pacquiao racked in $35 million after earning $40 million the year before. In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Pacquiao as the sixth-highest-paid athlete in the world.

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound southpaw, trains nearly every day at the Wildcard Boxing Gym in Los Angeles.

Before and after every training session, fans wait outside the gym just for a glimpse of the champ and perhaps an autograph or picture.

Inside the gym, Pacquiao's entourage and a gaggle of onlookers, often including a few celebrities, watch the "Pac Man" power through his grueling training sessions. Recent drop-ins include actors Jeremy Piven, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall and Mickey Rourke, a former professional boxer himself.

Roach, 50, also a former professional fighter, has trained 26 world champions, including the likes of Mike Tyson and Oscar de la Hoya. He said Pacquiao is his best.

"His work ethic is way above anybody else. He's like a machine," Roach said. "It took us, like, eight to nine years to get to this point. The thing is, he knows the game now. He knows how to study opponents. He's well-rounded, not just a one-punch knockout artist like he was at the beginning."

Unlike Pacquiao, Roach doesn't have any hobbies -- just boxing.

The Wild Card Boxing Gym, located in the back of a nondescript shopping mall in Hollywood, is Roach's sanctuary. Six days a week, he trains a total of 14 fighters despite battling Parkinson's disease.

"My health's pretty good. The medications are better and I just went to the Cleveland Clinic, and they said I'm the healthiest Parkinson's patient they've ever seen," said Roach, who started boxing at age 6. He had 150 amateur fights and 54 professional fights before retiring in 1987.

"I'm not going anywhere," Roach said. "I'm not really worried about it. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I have a great life."

Roach and Pacquiao were hoping to fight undefeated welterweight Floyd Mayweather this weekend, but the fight was called off after the camps couldn't agree on drug testing guidelines.

Roach still thinks the much-anticipated super-fight will happen eventually.

But for now, instead of fighting Mayweather, Pacquiao will take on former IBF welterweight world champion Joshua Clottey tonight in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium on HBO pay-per-view.