By Michael Marley
I've heard Muhammad Ali, a minister for Allah and Islam if there ever was one, prosletyze.
One Sunday in Sacramento, when he launched his glorious comeback, I heard Rev. George Foreman talking scripture in a church. The next night, I saw him pulverize an opponent.
On Thursday, over at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, I went to what I thought was an interview session with Pinoy Idol Manny Pacquiao only to witnesss as Bibly study discussion broke out.
In a side room overlooking the Hudson River, I got a "semi-exclusive" Q and A with Pacman (GMA's gregarious, ubiquitous Chino Trinidad was there) and now I can say I've also heard Pacquiao preach.
His engraved white Bible ("Emmanuel D. Pacquiao" never left the boxing champ and Sarangani Congressman's grip as he outlined his recent life changes.
When I say it was a religious experience, I mean that liitterally. Pacquiao's life has taken a turn for the (Biblical) verse, he was quoting from memory from Mark, from Josiah and from Matthew and from other portions of the Good Book.
I asked the 33 year old fighter who has long had all his material wants and needs more than covered how he's changed and why.
The key, Pacquiao put it, is that he wants to obtain something he termed "priceless," something which his fame and riches cannot buy.
"I am seeking eternal life," Pacquiao said. "You cannot buy the key to the kingdom of heaven because it's something money cannot buy. It is something which is priceless.
"We all have our life, our body and our soul but you must also have the spirit. We think about our bodies, about worldly things. We think about going to the bar, about gambling. But you've got to have the spirit, you must hsve love, joy, partience and forgiveness.
"If you don't you go through life like the blindfolded man who can't see where he is walking. He doesn't know where to step. But people forget this because are afraid of being lonely.
"Yes, I am Manny Pacquiao but...I cannot go out and buy my salvation. Let me put it this way, do you want to save for the short term or long term?" Pacquiao asked. "Me, I want to save for the long term.
"People say they will become religious when they get older but...nobody knows when they will die. Getting saved is not like something you can eat or drink or something you wear...you have to be ready for that day, for Judgment Day....
"If you wait until Judgment Day, you will be acquitted or convicted. But, if you wait until then, it is too late, you will be convicted."
Not only has Pacman abandoned his casino interests, his cockfighting hobby and demon alcohol, he has forged a stronger link with wife Jinkee. There was marital discord before his sluggish performance and controversial victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in November.
Now Manny and Jinkee read their bibles together. Pacquiao said he gets in at least two rounds of Bible study every day. He said it does not come easy.
"You can read it easy but it is not easy to understand it, to get it. It is written is so many parables but every time you read the Bible, you are planting the seeds . You will come to love to read it...I'm not waiting until I am older to change my life.
"I'm not just going to confession, seeking forgiveness and then going out and committing the same sins over and over again.
"I'm going to be ready now."
Floyd Mayweather can wait but Heaven can't.
That pretty much sums up Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao these days.