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The prayerful pugilist

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By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog

Manny Pacquiao punches people in the face for a living.

He is pound for pound the greatest boxer in the world. An eight-time world champion, the 147-pound Filipino fighter has obliterated his way through weight classes on his way to becoming a national hero in the Philippines and an international superstar.

The southpaw has crushing punching power, and his team has worked hard to develop a right as devastating as his left. But Pacquiao is packing a secret weapon when he walks into the ring - a deep abiding faith.

“The most important thing is to believe in God,” Pacquiao said during a recent train trip to Washington, D.C. With his wife by his side and his team taking up the entire private train car, Pacquiao spoke to CNN about his faith, politics and his upcoming fight.

He was heading to Washington to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Last fall, Reid was down in the polls in a tough re-election fight, so he called in Pacquiao for a last-minute rally. On Tuesday in Washington, Reid said it was Pacquiao who helped put his campaign over the top. (Watch CNN’s Carol Costello’s report on the trip here.)

Pacquiao is cagey but diplomatic when talking politics but lights up when asked about his faith. It is a big part of his life as a boxer.

When the 32-year-old Catholic bounded into the ring before his latest pay-per-view match, a silver rosary bounced on his chest as he hopped in place getting ready for the fight. He looked skyward and crossed himself.

It’s a familiar scene to those closest to him. “He crosses himself before each round,” longtime Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “After every workout we end it with a prayer. He’s very dedicated to his…

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