Our vehicle came to a halt at the gateway to the home of Laura Elorde, the widow of Philippines boxing icon Flash Elorde. Instantly, a grinning man, clad in a pair of shorts and flip-flops, popped out of the guard shack and cut loose with an impromptu shadowboxing exhibition.
The guard's muscular arms and torso glistened with perspiration as he unleashed a series of rapid-fire combinations. But his wizened face juxtaposed his impressive physique: From the neck down, he could have been a well-conditioned athlete of 30, but he was clearly substantially older. Satisfied that we were properly impressed with his prowess, he stopped throwing punches after about 20 seconds, smiled broadly and waved us on.
We had been treated to a special greeting from Little Gallego, a retired Filipino featherweight of modest accomplishment who had been lucky enough to garner the gatekeeper gig at the Elorde Sports Complex when his boxing career was over. Gallego's childlike pride in his former profession and the relatively humble position in which he found himself were touching in a peculiarly ambivalent way. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
In the end, the defensive mechanism of last resort kicked in, and gallows humor prevailed. The incident became an inside joke between Ted Lerner -- an American journalist and long-time resident of the Philippines -- and me. Whenever stories of Manny Pacquiao's spendthrift ways made headlines, one of us inevitably joked that he would soon be replacing Little Gallego at the gate of the Elorde compound.
Although it's highly unlikely (but not totally inconceivable) that Pacquiao could end up in anything like Gallego's circumstances, the multimillionaire boxer does appear to be racing headlong toward his own financial cliff.
Such a grim possibility is in stark contrast to the situation enjoyed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. Although we will never know for sure who would have won if Manny and Floyd had fought during their primes, at this point Mayweather is making more money than ever -- and hasn't needed Pacquiao to make it happen. Meanwhile, Manny is spending at a Tyson-esque rate.
You can't help wondering how things would have turned out if Pacquiao's career had been handled more like Mayweather's. After all, Manny has been a major pay-per-view star since stopping Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, and he has a proven track record of selling a million or more pay-per-view buys almost every time he fights.
But unlike Mayweather, who for many years has personally and painstakingly selected his opponents -- many competing at least a few pounds above their natural range or a few years beyond their prime -- Pacquiao is frequently matched up with the most commercially viable foe, weight and style be damned.
So why haven't Pacquiao's opponents been as carefully selected as Mayweather's? And why, now that his career is in jeopardy following back-to-back defeats, is he fighting Brandon Rios, an extremely dangerous opponent with the sort of punching power that could conceivably leave Manny facedown on the canvas again?
One possible conclusion is that Manny and his promoter, Bob Arum, are cashing out -- Arum because he knows his top moneymaker is nearing the finish line, and Pacquiao because he is in desperate need of liquidity. Why else would he require large advances prior to his fights?
Although it's always tempting to look for good guys and bad guys in such situations, it's seldom that simple. Just as boxers' fighting styles frequently mirror their outside-the-ring personalities, the way Pacquiao and Mayweather handle their business affairs is a reasonable reflection of who they are and what motivates them.
Pacquiao's relentless and sometimes reckless aggression in the ring is replicated in the cavalier manner with which he conducts his commercial interests. Conversely, Mayweather's judicious style of boxing, designed to minimize the possibility of danger by taking as few risks as possible, is matched by his savvy business acumen.
There is also a marked difference in the people Mayweather and Pacquiao turn to for advice. Mayweather has secretive power broker Al Haymon guiding his career and ubiquitous right-hand man Leonard Ellerbe at his side. Furthermore, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Mayweather is intimately involved in all aspects of his business dealings.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, is advised by Michael Koncz, a shadowy figure who has feuded with other members of Manny's entourage, including trainer Freddie Roach, who once said, "The worst mistake in my life was when I introduced Michael Koncz to Manny Pacquiao."
Some have wondered why Pacquiao didn't jump ship and follow Mayweather to Golden Boy. After all, it would have made it a lot easier to negotiate a fight with his American archrival.
Contractual obligations were part of the reason he stuck with Top Rank, and then there are those pesky advances to repay. Actually, Pacquiao could have had an opportunity to leave Top Rank when their contract expired at the end of 2013, but he has already signed an extension that will keep him in the fold throughout 2014. Veteran Philippines journalist Ronnie Nathanielsz thinks he knows why.
"He always gets advances before his fights and is therefore, in a sense, beholden to Bob Arum. However, I don't believe he owes Arum a large sum of money," Nathanielsz said. "Manny has the fundamental Filipino mentality of gratitude, and as far as I know, he is grateful to Arum for his successful career and in building his image as a crossover star."
Regardless of who promotes them and how much money Pacquiao and Mayweather ultimately pocket, the manner in which they spend it will determine their post-boxing futures. Both enjoy lavish lifestyles befitting two of the highest-paid athletes of all time, but beyond that, there are few similarities. At one time gambling was a shared passion, but Pacquiao has given it up after years of betting heavily on cards, billiards and cockfighting.
Mayweather, of course, is well known for betting huge amounts of money on various sporting events. I don't know if risking hundreds of thousands of dollars on a regular basis amounts to a gambling addiction, but if Floyd does have a problem, living in Las Vegas can only complicate matters for him.
When it comes to spending money, however, Mayweather is a relative skinflint compared to Pacquiao. Unfortunately, the Filipino icon is nowhere near as proficient a bookkeeper as his would-be rival.
"From what I can gather, Manny really can't be bothered with the minutiae of finance and keeping track of all his funds," said Lerner, who has known Pacquiao since he was a six-round fighter. "After years of spending like there was no tomorrow, it appears that tomorrow has come and Manny is in need of cash. He still has a lot of upkeep on his properties and businesses, and many people are relying on him to further their political careers. Manny has a hard time saying no, and people everywhere still constantly besiege him for help."
Although Pacquiao has apparently shed the hard-core gamblers who once surrounded him, a new group is draining the coffers. Pastors and other religious types have thoroughly ingratiated themselves, and Manny is said to have given heaps of cash for ministries and infrastructure projects related to their churches. He also foots the bill for the printing of thousands of bibles and the holding of massive religious rallies in expensive stadiums.
Yet Pacquiao's biggest single expense is his political career. He spent an estimated $6.6 million on his successful 2010 campaign to become the congressional representative of the district of Sarangani. In the latest election, which closed last week, Manny ran unopposed and consequently spent considerably less. Even so, wife Jinkee and brother Rogelio also ran for office (Jinkee won; Rogelio lost), and it cost Pacquiao approximately $2 million to finance the campaigns.
"Manny has clearly lost the zeal for boxing that he once had," Lerner said. "Before, he used to fight for the love of fighting, and the money seemed secondary. Now he is obviously fighting for only one reason: money."
The amount of money Pacquiao makes during the balance of his career depends largely on what happens against Rios on Nov. 24 in Macau. An impressive win would reinvigorate his career, at least for the foreseeable future. Anything less would only hasten the end. Roach has said that if the Rios fight turns out to be another defeat, Manny should retire. Whether the fighter would comply is something else altogether. For as long as Pacquiao can climb the ring steps, there is money to be made.
A match with the winner of Juan Manuel Marquez-Timothy Bradley Jr. would be a natural, especially if Pacquiao's performance against Rios is sufficiently encouraging. There is also Rios' conqueror, Mike Alvarado, who would gladly move up to welterweight for a Pacquiao-size payday. If there were a miraculous cease-fire between Golden Boy and Top Rank, you could also throw Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and the winner of Saturday's Lamont Peterson-Lucas Matthysse bout into the mix.
Even if Pacquiao loses to Rios and decides to fight on, plenty of lucrative options await him. In all likelihood, it's way too soon for Little Gallego to start looking for a new job.