Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Throwback: On race and the Filipino boxing body

Throwback post in light of the upcoming Pacquiao-Mosley fight. Will race talk appear in the bout between the two boxers?

Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey prepare for their March 2010 bout

This Saturday is the big (not really) bout between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey at Texas Stadium. A big disappointment because I'm sure we were all hoping for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. Perhaps some of you witnessed occasions of racially-tinged smack-talk when the Pacquiao-Mayweather match was in negotiations. And even though you may be the most critical person when it comes to assumptions of racial categorization, the Asian body of Pacquiao and the Black body of Mayweather still lingered in your mind as to the impact of physicality in this historic match. If you are in denial, you probably heard it from others.

In the Times Magazine yesterday, the question was posed whether the Pacquiao-Clottey and Mayweather-Mosley fights were simply precursors to a bigger Pacquiao-Mayweather bout. "Pacquiao and Mayweather: One More Until the Big One?" the author asks. The author writes:

"Pacquiao's camp says the boxer refused the blood testing because he is superstitious and doesn't want to give blood so close to fight time. He was blood-tested a couple of days before his fight with Erik Morales, and lost. "It made me weak," says Pacquiao, who is suing Mayweather for sullying his reputation. There is speculation in some boxing gyms that Mayweather knew about Pacquiao's aversion to pre-fight blood testing and used it as a tactic to duck him."

What's with all the slander and courtroom drama? Enough of the soap opera. But then again, the more drama, the more dollas. I say this "bad" publicity makes for great boxing, at least within the marketplace of entertainment.

So for now, we send good vibes to Manny this Saturday. Clottey, who is from Ghana, may help dampen the racially-tinged flames that inform the skepticism of the physical capacities of either Manny or Mayweather. If Manny wins against Clottey, perhaps Clottey will be seen as a "buffer" to the racial skepticism and prepare the way for a bigger and more measured Pacquiao-Mayweather match. It sucks that we have to always see boxers in terms of race, but that's the way it has always been in boxing (and all of sports) history...especially when boxing focuses so much on the fighter's height, weight, arm-length, muscular boxing, the male body is a spectacle. Even Clottey's was described as having a "muscled body of a boa constrictor" by the Times writer. (On second thought, that metaphor doesn't make sense because snakes don't have defined muscle-groups like mammals, do they? Or does Clottey have a tube-like, snake-like physique?)

I was interviewed by Inquirer reporter Benjamin Pimentel about the race-talk happening when the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations were under way a few months ago, especially when Manny's mom utterance of a variation of the "N-word," which is layered with translation problems. Here is a snippet below. I think the article demonstrates the precariousness of Filipino and Black concord, but also mentions the possibilities of community-building between the two groups.


Pacquiao versus Mayweather in black & brown

by Benjamin Pimentel

CALIFORNIA, United States—It’s unclear if the showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will ever happen. But there are signs that what could be boxing’s biggest bout in recent history could highlight tensions around an important issue: race. A preview came in the form of controversy over Dionisia Pacquiao’s remarks after Manny’s victory over Miguel Cotto.

Mommy Dionisia clearly did not mean any harm when, in thanking her son’s fans, she referred to “mga Amerikano at mga Negro,” which according to columnist Recah Trinidad and other reports, somehow got translated as “Americans and niggers.”

The translator got it wrong, obviously, although it’s not clear if it was intentional, or was an honest error.

Clearly, the stakes would be high in a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout. It would pit a well-known, undefeated African American fighter against arguably the greatest Asian boxer in history, who is also now being ranked among the best in the world...

Mark Villegas, a Filipino American academic and filmmaker based in southern California, who is working on a documentary on the Filipino and Filipino American hip-hop scene, sees the potential for trouble...


1 comment:

Matt P said...

"the greatest Asian boxer in history"?

"I would like to ask, 'Why compare Fil Ams to other Asian Americans in the first place?'"

It only stuck out because your Clemente-inspired article was so recent. Just picking at nits.

...Although perhaps there is more to discuss? I've been thinking about your contention with "misapplied" racial categories since I read your first critique of Clemente's article.

If the generalization of "Asian" is too broad to be considered accurate, where then do we stop? If it is important to identify with a racial group, who gets to decide at what scale such identities are "correctly" delineated? What scale is the right scale, and according to whom?

Certainly I can appreciate ethnographic and scholarly distinctions between particular social groups, but valuing such technical jargon outside technical fields is, I think, the sort of mistake that led to popular validation of racial-taxonomic segregation. No?

Hmm.. maybe no. Upon further reflection, perhaps it's more accurate that the real issue was even thinking that people could (should) be accurately categorized by phenotype. In other words, is there even any real value in ethnographic/scientific racial distinctions? Is "refining the scale" even a good idea, or are we just trying to make a broke thing work because it's all we've ever had?

I think this may actually be addressed by post-anthropology. Someone familiar with anthropology please enlighten a layman?

Interested in what the humanities equivalent of post-anthropology might be... if even the smallest discrete element of human organization isn't homogeneous, why would any "official" label ever be unproblematic?