Manny Pacquiao

Pacquiao to open Tokyo gym as boxing ‘journey’ continues

TOKYO — Philippine boxer and Sen. Manny Pacquiao said Friday he will open a gym in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district next spring, on the heels of a return to the sport he calls his passion.

The gym will be run by a longtime acquaintance, Japanese businessman Yoshihiro Agata, under a licensing deal. It will be aimed at amateurs and boxing enthusiasts, not professionals, and will not be affiliated with the Japan Pro Boxing Association.

In a news conference at the gym, Pacquiao noted the abundance of young people in the area. He is opening the gym “to help the people do exercise” and to “discover a good boxer,” he said.

“I can share my knowledge about boxing and my talents. I can teach them,” he said. Pacquiao has won titles across six different weight classes from the major boxing sanctioning bodies.

The boxer visited the headquarters of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and met with lawmakers Thursday. At Friday’s news conference, too, he looked every inch the businessman.

Yet Pacquiao, who turns 38 in December, returned to the ring with a bang just this month, reclaiming the World Boxing Organization’s welterweight title in Las Vegas in his first fight in seven months. By trouncing American Jessie Vargas, a man 10 years his junior, Pacquiao showed that he remains world-class despite no longer being in his prime.

He told reporters Friday he was pleased with his performance and happy to become the first sitting senator to hold a championship belt.

Pacquiao had hung up his gloves in April after defeating American Timothy Bradley. After winning a seat in the Philippine Senate in May, he was prepared to buckle down and focus on politics. But he decided in July to return to boxing after feeling “lonely and sad” without the sport he loves, he explained Friday.

“I can still fight and my body is still OK, so I decided to come back, and I’m here,” he said. “My journey is continued.” He resumed training in August, though he had remained in good shape in the intervening months by playing basketball, he said.

Friday’s news conference also attracted Japanese boxers. Pacquiao gave superflyweight Naoya Inoue, who is set to defend his WBO title Dec. 30, advice on his hook. Pacquiao — who has won titles from flyweight class to the roughly 20kg heavier superwelterweight class — also revealed a few of his physical conditioning secrets, including eating meat three times a day and drinking water every five minutes.

The 37-year-old offered encouragement to Satoshi Shimizu, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics and turned professional this year at 30, urging him to think about how to get stronger rather than about his age.

Pacquiao said he plans to schedule his next match between April and May 2017, during a break in his legislative duties. The names of such champions and potential stars as American Terence Crawford and Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko have been bandied about for Pacquiao’s next opponent. That rival Floyd Mayweather, who defeated Pacquiao in May 2015 in a bout billed as the “Fight of the Century,” sat ringside at the Philippine boxer’s comeback match as an invited guest has also fueled speculation.

Pacquiao said he has not yet spoken to Mayweather or decided who he will fight next. A rematch would not be out of the question if Mayweather, who retired in September 2015, returns to the ring, Pacquiao said, adding with a smile that he is confident he would win this time.

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