By Jake Donovan
Manny Pacquiao took the first step towards exorcising past ring demons with a 12-round whitewash of Brandon Rios this past Saturday in Macau.
However, the blow delivered to him in the aftermath could prove more devastating than the one that initially forced him on the comeback trail.
Pacquiao was anticipating a hero’s welcome in his native Philippines, along with a planned visit to the areas suffering the most damage from Typhoon Kaiyan. One of the most severe typhoons on record, the disaster ripped through the nation’s center, killing more than 5,200 people and displacing another 3 million people from their homes.
The financial support Pacquiao planned to lend to his nation—both as a fighter and as a Congressman—was met with a knockout blow from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
A freeze was placed on all financial assets owned by the boxer and his wife, due to an estimated 2.2 billions pesos ($50 millions USD) owed in back taxes stemming from ring earnings in 2008 and 2009.
Included among that time frame is a trio of career defining wins for Pacquiao. His corner stoppage of Oscar de la Hoya after eight one-sided rounds in their Dec. ’08 clash took Pacquiao’s career to new heights. Subsequent wins—a 2nd round knockout of Ricky Hatton and a 12th round stoppage of Miguel Cotto—forever etched the Filipino’s name in the record books, winning championships in more weight classes than any other fighter in boxing history.
As devastating as he was over that stretch, the Bureau of Internal Revenue insists the time is long overdue to give back their due share of what he earned for such feats.
The dispute stems from proof of said taxes being paid. Pacquiao insisted it was taken care of in the United States, a claim which promoter Top Rank attempted to prove to the IRS. However, the proof offered–a letter from Top Rank and HBO, but no receipts from the IRS itself–further raised speculation among those investigating the matter, according to recent reports from the Associated Press.
“That is self-serving and a mere scrap of paper,” Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares said of the attempt to clear Pacquiao’s name. “"What (Pacquiao) can do is go to the IRS, ask IRS to certify this copy (of his tax payments) as a true copy. We have been waiting for that for two years."
A similar case was brought to light regarding alleged taxes for income Pacquiao received from his two fights in 2010 – decision wins over Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito, both of which took place in Dallas. Those charges were dropped, an outcome the fighter believes will be the case this time around, though he hopes for a more immediate resolution.
“I appeal to them to remove the garnishment so that I can move and pay for my staff's salaries,” Pacquiao told local reporters in General Santos City. “I am not a criminal or a thief.”
Pacquiao, a member of the Philippine Congress since 2010, was able to borrow 1 million pesos (over $22,000 USD) prior for temporary relief for his citizens prior to his fight with Rios, for which he earned a reported $18 million.
The win over Rios was Pacquiao’s first in more than two years, having endured a two-fight losing streak prior to his 50-week ring hiatus. His record is now 55-5-2 (38KO), with his 62-fight career having now spanned 18 years and counting.
However much longer Pacquiao, who turns 35 in December, plans to keep going is a question only time can answer. What the fighter can guarantee, though, is that every dollar he’s made and will continue to earn, will come purely from hard work.
“The money that was garnished… is not stolen,” Pacquiao insists. “This came from all of the punches, beatings, blood and sweat that I endured in the ring.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox