The Bleacher Report claims that Manny Pacquiao is the most popular athlete. However, their only real claim is that Manny is the most searched athlete.
While I’m not sure of the Bleacher Report's source, I did a Google insights search of Manny Pacquiao, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham. Pacquiao was third. Right behind Beckham, but Cristiano Ronaldo had more than triple the amount of searches.
I don't mean to discredit Pacquiao in any way. His celebrity value is amazing – from his political office to his endorsement deals to his anticipated fights. I just don't see him as the most popular celebrity in the world, or even the U.S. Just look at his Facebook fans (under 2 million) – hardly the powerhouse the Bleacher Report claims.