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Manny Pacquiao - The World's Most Popular Athlete?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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According to Google Zeitgeist, Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino, was the most popular athlete in America in 2011 and quite possibly the world.

zeit·geist | Pronunciation: 'tsIt-"gIst, 'zIt | Function: noun | Etymology: German, from Zeit (time) + Geist (spirit) | Date: 1884 | Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.

"Zeitgeist" means "the spirit of the times", and Google reveals this spirit through the aggregation of millions of search queries they receive every day, year after year.

Last month, Google's annual Zeitgeist showcased Google's top searches for 2011 across various categories. The most searched athlete in the United States in 2011 was boxing's WBO Welterweight Champion Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO), according to the world's largest search engine.

Pacquiao fought twice in 2011, successfully defending his welterweight (147lb/66.7kg) title belt against fellow boxing legends Sugar Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

While the Filipino superstar easily defeated Sugar Shane via a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision in May, his third meeting in November against fellow top 5 pound-for-pound pugilist Juan Manuel Marquez ended in controversy as Pacquiao was awarded a close, majority decision in a bout many fans and experts thought Marquez did enough to win.

In addition to being arguably one of the two best fighters in the world pound-for-pound, Manny Pacquiao is a singer and Member of the Filipino Congress. Those traits, along with the ongoing Pacquiao-Mayweather 'fight saga' likely contributed to Pac Man's No.1 Google ranking in Sports/Athletes last year.

2011 Most Searched Athletes in Google

1. Manny Pacquiao
2. Tiger Woods
3. LeBron James
4. Michael Jordan
5. Kobe Bryant
6. Tim Tebow
7. Kris Humphries
8. Aaron Rodgers
9. Derrick Rose
10. Peyton Manning

Google also rated 'Pacquiao vs Mosley' the 10th most queried sports event in the United States in 2011. Pacquiao's nemesis, Floyd Mayweather Jr, took part in Google's most searched sports event in the United States, Mayweather vs Ortiz.

2011 Most Popular Athletes in Yahoo

For Yahoo, the world's second largest search engine, Manny Pacquiao finished third among international sports stars in 2011 behind GoDaddy.com hottie Danica Patrick and Tiger Woods.

Pacquiao finished first in 2010.

1. Danica Patrick
2. Tiger Woods
3. Manny Pacquiao
4. Maria Sharapova
5. Serena Williams
6. Kris Humphries
7. Hope Solo
8. Kobe Bryant
9. Lamar Odom
10. Caroline Wozniacki

Known as 'Pac Man,' Manny Pacquiao is boxing's first eight-division world champion. He was named 'Fighter of the Decade' for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC) and is a three-time Ring Magazine and BWAA 'Fighter of the Year', winning the distinction in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

He is also rated as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world by some sports publications and boxing websites, including The Ring, BoxRec.com and Sporting Life. Pacquiao is rated No. 2 on the same list by FightSaga, ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

Is Manny Pacquiao the World's Most Popular Athlete?

Manny Pacquiao is the 'Most Queried Athlete in Google' in the United States and ranked No. 3 among athletes, internationally, in Yahoo. And while those distinctions alone can't solidify the distinction as World's Most Popular Athlete, some of his biggest proponents couple Pacquiao's popularity in Internet Search with his credentials and achievements (below) to support their claim he's worthy of that lofty status.

  • Pacquiao has endorsed numerous products including detergents, medicines, foods, beverages, garments and telecommunications gadgets for notable companies, including giants Nike, Hennessy, Hewlett Packard and Umagang Kay Ganda.

  • Manny is the first Filipino athlete to appear on a postage stamp.

  • Pacquiao has been included by Time Magazine as one of the world's most influential people for the year 2009 for his exploits in boxing and his influence among the Filipino people. 

  • Manny has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and Newsweek.

  • He was included by Forbes Magazine in its annual 'Celebrity 100' list for the year 2009, joining Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and fellow athletes Tiger Woods and Bryant.

  • Pacquiao, according to Forbes, tied Major League baseball player Alex Rodriguez for 'Highest Paid Athlete' honors in 2010, earning an estimated $32 Million USD.
  • The Filipino star won the 2009 ESPY Awards in the 'Best Fighter' category, beating fellow boxer Shane Mosley and Brazilian mixed martial arts fighters Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva.
  • In Nike's most acclaimed commercials over the past two years, Manny Pacquiao appears alongside Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo and LiuXiang and Mexican boxing legend Érik Morales.

  • A politician and Member of Congress himself, Manny Pacquiao has endorsed a high-ranking U.S. politician and appeared in political ads for Filipino politicians during the 2007 and 2010 Philippine elections.

  • Pac Man is featured in the boxing video games Fight Night Round 2, Fight Night Round 3, Fight Night Round 4 and Fight Night Champion.

Although some sportswriters claim boxing is dead or forgotten, is there another active athlete, worldwide, who possesses Manny Pacquiao's  mainstream credentials?

Some content courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Zeitgeist 2011


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