Evangelical Christian Manny Pacquiao Wins Fight Against Timothy Bradley with Faith in God

Apr 11, 2014 08:34 PM EDT

Manny Pacquiao
Fillipino boxer and congressman Manny Pacquiao (AP Photo)

Update 1:30 a.m. ET: Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradly to become the new WBO welterweight champion. The 35-year-old Filipino winner settle the record on Saturday night after fighting the same fighter - Timothy Bradley Jr. - who'd beaten him in a controversial unpopular decision that lifted his WBO welterweight title two years ago on June 9, 2012 at the same boxing ring at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao got the nod this time, winning two scorecards by 116-112 margins and a third by a 118-110 score, according to CBSSportsPacquiao thanked God for the victory after the match in an interview. 

Evangelical Christian boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said Thursday before his second fight with Timothy Bradley on Saturday that his Christian faith is not "getting in the way" of his fighting style nor has he lost his "killer instinct." Instead, his faith has helped him overcome the distractions in his former life. 

"All of us need a relationship with God, that's the most important thing. I'm not introducing a religion, I'm just reading the Bible, day and night. It's our manual to life. When you have trials in your life, you lean on God," said the evangelical 35-year-old boxer, according to LA Times.

Pacquiao, the first and only eight-division (10 time world champion), has put an end drinking, gambling, and cheating on his wife. He said his life was spinning out of control before he received Christ. He owned a casino in Manila and a large cockfighting operation - and it was affecting his training, his fighting and even his work as a congressman in the Philippines. On top of all that, he would end up in an argument with his wife Jinkee almost before every fight.

According to an interview with USA Today in June 2012, Pacquiao later "promised God" that he would change, and he did. He sold his casino, restaurant and cockfighting operation and said he stopped womanizing and drinking and turned to the Bible.

Meanwhile, Bradley (31-0), who had fought Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 knockouts), called out his next fight's opponent for no longer the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

"It's reality," said Bradley, who believes Pacquiao has become a compassionate fighter, according to LA Times. "His fans are saying the same thing: 'He doesn't have the fire,' 'He's had guys pinned in the corner and lets them get away.' That never happened before. He's not finishing guys. Something's changed."

This week, Pacquiao's personal trainer Freddie Roach also offered a similar explanation on why he believes Pacquiao lost to Bradley in the controversial first fight, and then to Juan Manuel Marquez in a knockout later that year. 

"His religious outlook on life ... is the major reason why he hasn't knocked people out. I'm sure of it," he said, according to Los Angeles Times.

"Manny told me, 'If I don't need to knock them out, I really don't want to hurt them," Roach said, the Times reported. "I've told him that's not a great idea in boxing. ... People want to see knockouts, and you can get hit the longer you let it go."

Pacquiao said he wanted to knock out Marquez in late 2012, but instead was knocked out himself. He then got a unanimous decision in the win over Brandon Rios in November.

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines wears the champion's belt after defeating Brandon Rios. Photo: Vincent Yu

"It's just happened like that," Pacquiao explained, according to LA Times. "I want all my fights to be a knockout, but you can't control what happens in the fight. I'll convince people this weekend, prove to them I still have the killer instinct."

Meanwhile, Pacquiao has seven Christian pastors around him and three of them are in Las Vegas this week, the LA Times reported. Perhaps, he can have easy access to Bible-studies for at least two hours a day.  

While raised Catholic, Pacquiao received salvation through protestant faith, and has begun preaching the gospel in his native country. His mother Dionisia Pacquiao believes his conversion from Catholicism to evangelical Protestantism had a hand in his loss to Marquez. 

"That's what he gets for changing his religion," said his mother, who has also prayed that he quit boxing, according to Inquirer Global Nation report. "Since the 'Protestant' pastors came into his life, he has not focused on his boxing."

In 2012, Pacquiao told DMZZ, a local radio station in Philippines, that he had a dream early that year, where God told him to retire. After having that dream, he gave up all his vices. 

"I will not stay long in boxing because He said: 'You have done enough. You have made yourself famous but this is harmful,'" he said. 

Yet, Pacquiao had declined to reveal how many more fights he would contest before stepping down.

Pacquiao told USA Today that God led him to Americanized Filipino named Jeric Soriano, a part-time pastor and does commercials. "Pastor Jeric" has helped keep Pacquiao grounded.  And because of his new-found faith, Pacquiao was testified by his colleagues on having a more peaceful demeanor and has devoted much more time with his wife and family, especially the kids.

Before his loss to Marquez, Pacquiao shared how faith is so important to him.

"Because God loves us so much. He doesn't want us to die. He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone," he told ESPN. "That's what He said. I mean, if we don't have God in our life, we're considered dead."

Pacquiao claimed before the fight with Marquez that he can still have a "killer instinct" despite his faith, but was knocked out during the sixth-round. Perhaps, his pair of losses immediately during and after his conversion had some believing that the Bible has become a distraction to his boxing career.

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines prays while wearing the champion's belt after defeating Brandon Rios in Nov. 2013. Photo: Vincent Yu

Perhaps, Pacquiao realized that all the chasing after the worldly fame is meaningless as it states in Matthew 16:26: "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" (NIV)

"Boxing is a sport. We allow each other to hit each other, but I'm not treating my opponent like my enemy," Pacquiao told ESPN. "We're doing a job to entertain people."

But when asked if his newfound religious fervor would hurt his boxing, Pacquiao told DMZZ: "I will do my work inside the ring." 

Last Nov. Pacquiao, who took a year off, came back to beat the hungry Mexican-American fighter Brandon Rios in Macau. With a new found passion and purpose, he knows what is truly worth fighting for and he has shown his determination and remained consistent in his speech and action to live for Jesus Christ. Moreover, his fight on Saturday will be the chance that Pacquiao show that he still has the "fire," and it is fueled with a never-ending supply of strength from God himself. 

"To know the secret of the kingdom of heaven is like planting seeds in the vineyard," he told GMA News in Philippines.

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)