Commentary

Long live Pacquiao's fame!

Has fame gone to his head? Yes, but so what? He's handling it in inimitable style.

Originally Published: November 16, 2009
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

Originally, the question here was going to be: "Is fame going to Manny Pacquiao's head?" It was on slate to be written and posted a week before the fight. It was on slate to be a first look at the flaws (if not the demise and downfall) in Manny's game that were to be evident once he stepped into the ring with Miguel Cotto on Saturday night.

It didn't get asked in time. Fortunately.

[+] EnlargeManny Pacquiao
AP Photo/Eric JamisonThink Manny Pacquiao is popular in Las Vegas? Wait 'til he gets home to the Philippines.

All of that changed when, after one and a half rounds of feeling the fight out, the pound-for-pound co-king went into "Oh, you really wanna fight?" mode and commenced to beating Cotto like he'd said something out-of-pocket about his mother.

Pacquiao threw 57 punches in Round 2 and landed 33 of them, including a knockdown. That set the pace and became the norm for the rest of the fight.

Fame gravitates to Pacquiao like drama to Shaq's marriage, but it seems to be more of an accessory than a distraction in the total Pacq package. He validated as much on "24/7" when he said, "I enjoy being a celebrity because it's my responsibility."

But who knew he could compartmentalize like this?

How does he not let the fact that he's surpassed icon status in the Philippines and rock star status around the rest of the world impact what he does when it's ring time? When it seems that he seriously trained for this fight for only two weeks because he was so busy focusing on so many other things, he comes out and makes a possible fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. even bigger than the possibility of it already was going in. In the biggest fight of his career, you'd figure making stops to sing on Philippine TV, to lounge with Jimmy Kimmel, to shoot a movie during his nonpromotional time (a movie in which Pacquiao is the star), and to deal with all of the trappings of Time magazine naming him one of the 100 most influential people in the world … you'd figure all that would have an effect and show itself once the first bell rang.

But no such thing occurred.

Pacquiao didn't let either the power of fame or the discord inside his camp -- best described in The New York Times as a "dysfunctional entourage," including everything from hatred between adviser and conditioning coach to friends and surrogate family members literally fighting for everything from Manny's affection to who gets to sleep at the foot of his bed -- keep him from his 12 appointed rounds. That feat could be placed on the same "sensational" shelf as what Mayweather Jr. did by taking 17 months off and then deconstructing Juan Manuel Marquez, the fighter who over the years could truly claim to have given Pacquiao the most difficulty in the ring by taking him to the limit twice.

JMM went 12 rounds with Pacquiao two times, coming away with a draw in one and a split decision loss in the other.

On Saturday night, Cotto was supposed to be the reason Pacquiao wasn't going to be the first fighter in history to ever win seven titles in seven different weight classes. But so masterful was Pacquiao's performance that he forced Jim Lampley, during the fight, to say a line that will go down in announcing annals as one of the greatest ever spoken. When co-commentator Emanuel Steward said toward the end of the fight that the ref shouldn't stop it and should let "Cotto go out on his own terms," Lampley immediately responded, "Well, his terms are going to be painful."

And painful it was. Especially if you had a belief (or hope) that all of the trappings of success were going to weigh on Manny's ability to perform. So if you didn't know how great Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao is before Saturday night, you better know it now. He is that super rare and special athlete who wants the responsibility of fame and finds a way to not allow it to go to his head, to not let it affect the execution of his art.

[+] EnlargePacquiao
AP Photo/Eric JamisonHow much bigger can he get? If he continues to be able to compartmentalize like he did against Miguel Cotto, no telling.

Some athletes do one or the other. It's close to impossible to find one who can manage both.

Think Ali.

Think Jordan.

Think Tiger.

Think the Yankees.

Think Mayweather.

Now think Pacquiao.

So, has Pacquiao let fame go to his head? The answer is simple: "Yes, he has."

But it has by no means affected, influenced or compromised what he did to attain the fame in the first place. And that's the beauty of watching him. He's handling a level of fame only few at this level have ever been able to master.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

Scoop Jackson | email

ESPN.com columnist