After their gloves touch, the bell rings and the dust settles on May 2, the world may be able to end the debate surrounding Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. being the best boxer of their era. Yet, Pacquiao is fighting for so much more than bragging rights or the largest payout any pugilist has ever seen.
The 36-year-old Filipino politician is fighting the good fight of faith, that is outlined in 1 Timothy 6:12. When all is said and done and the bout between he and Mayweather reaches its last round, Pacquiao told The Christian Post he hopes people recognize that he did his best even if his back was against the ropes.
"I want to please the Lord, my family, and my fans with this fight," Pacquiao told The Christian Post. "I want them to know I fought for God and my country, to bring them honor and glory."
Even though he may wear his Christian faith on his sleeve, Pacquiao has no problem strapping on his boxing gloves as someone who has been fighting professionally since the age of 16. By 2010, a buzz began heavily circulating about Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. facing one another in the ring after both bested big names including Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Márquez.
Since 2007, Pacquiao and Mayweather have been the only two fighters to be voted by ESPN fans as Best Fighter at the ESPY Awards. While Mayweather has received the honor six times since 2007, Pacquiao has been the one fighter that interrupted a potentially perfect seven year reign after winning in 2009 and 2011.
With an unblemished record, 47 fighters have fallen at the hands of Mayweather. Still, Pacquiao has been recognized by sports pundits and fans as someone who could potentially mar Mayweather's perfect record by handing him his first loss.
For five years, fans heard countless excuses for why the two biggest names in boxing would not face one another in the ring. Now that the fight has been officially scheduled, it is hard to ignore the magnitude of this fight and what it could mean for the careers of both men and the history of boxing.
While the Filipino fighter will not readily admit that he is doing a great deal to mentally separate this fight from others in terms of preparation, he told The Christian Post that he is giving the fight extra attention.
"I prepare mentally the same as I do with all of my other fights," Pacquiao told CP. "I think I'm training for this fight with a little more focus," Pacquiao told The Christian Post. "Spiritually, I pray for myself and also for my opponent."
To simply label Pacquiao as a boxer would be a disservice to the Evangelical Christian athlete who once moonlighted as a basketball player in the semi-professional basketball league, Liga Pilipinas, released two albums as a singer and has been a dedicated politician in his country.
Pacquiao has been working tirelessly to bring change to the Philippines and was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives at the age of 32. Yahoo! Sports recently dubbed the fanfare taking place in the country as "Pacmania" as shirts, postage stamps, dolls and other paraphenelia are circulating the fighter's homeland.
His documentary is playing in various Filipino movie theaters as the building of his church, school and community center in General Santos City is being constructed. In the way Pacquiao's fellow countrymen have hope that he will be victorious in the "fight of the century" the husband and father has a vision for his people.
"I want to provide opportunities for my fellow countrymen that will improve their situations. As a politician, I want to help create jobs so that I can bring them out of their poverty," Pacquiao revealed to CP. "I want to give them hope. Boxing has been my passion, but public service is my calling."
The boxer wants to use the platform that his passion provides to be a champion of his faith, regardless of the outcome of his fights.
"I think every Christian athlete should be open about their relationship with the Lord, as well as every believer. That is what the Bible commands," Pacquiao told CP. "When I am vocal to others about my faith and my hope of eternal life, it helps those fans of mine and those who watch me to know they can also have a hope."
People familiar with Pacquiao have heard him speak about his Christian faith in countless interviews since 2012, but the athlete will readily admit that he once let his success get the best of him. He had issues with drinking, gambling and being a womanizer, Pacquiao previously told ESPN.
He opened up about the reason he decided to change his life and really pursue Christ.
"I realized the way of sin was leading me in the wrong direction, not only in this life, but eternally. I realized I had a need," Pacquiao told CP. "I came to the point where I realized that need was the Lord Jesus Christ. I put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ."
That faith is what has carried Pacquiao through gut wrenching defeats like those that occurred at the hands of Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012.
"As a Christian, some of my greatest times of growth are in the times of defeat," he told CP. "I take great comfort from my faith."
Win or lose, Pacquiao said he is thankful to all of his supporters and those who have been praying for him. Although he is not anticipating a loss to Mayweather on May 2, the politician and boxer with a record of 57-5-2 and 38 KOs knows that the outcome of "the fight of the century" will not determine the change he hopes to make in the world.
"I love my boxing, but I realize now that is not what my life is all about. I just want to encourage all those who are a Christian, to share their salvation experience to others," Pacquiao told CP. "I think that we could make an impact in this world. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to retire in 2016, but the legacy that I want to leave is to be a role model and an inspiration, not only the boxing fans, but to everyone around the world."