Manny Pacquiao seeks knockout conclusion to boxing career
'I’m not old, I’m still young. I just have to focus on my other job to help the people,' says the 8-division boxing champion, who is running for senator this year
MANILA, Philippines – “Not now, in a little while,” said Manny Pacquiao, as sweat beaded his forehead and dropped onto the parquet floor of an upscale private basketball court on the outskirts of Metro Manila. “I just finished two games.”
It was 1:30 am on Monday morning, January 11, and Pacquiao, 37, needed a few minutes to breathe before granting an interview. He had just finished game two of a 3-game pickup series between his Team Pacman and Pound For Pound, whose jerseys also bore the name Manny Pacquiao across the chest. He’d be a winner regardless of which team finished on top, which are better odds than he’s ever faced inside a prize-fighting ring.
Even as he rested, his back against a 15-foot long bench, fans who had waited patiently for their chance to meet Pacquiao rushed to him with boxing gloves, posters, and jerseys to sign, and with cameras ready to flash. Even after midnight, every fan gets a moment of his time.
At the conclusion of the series (swept by his team), Pacquiao walked down to the basement locker room, changed, and combed his hair neatly, though at 2 am these days his only destination is home. An assistant handed him a bag with two pan de sal sandwiches to recover. He was now ready to talk.
Pacquiao, an 8-division boxing champion, will in 3 months walk to the ring for what he assures will be the final time in his 21-year boxing career against WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley. Afterwards, the two-term congressman will focus on his political career, which he hopes includes winning a seat in the Senate when general elections take place on May 9.
There are 12 seats up for grabs, and latest poll numbers have Pacquiao, who has been criticized for being more sportsman than congressman, ranked between 10 and 13.
“It’s not hard to make a decision to make a last fight,” Pacquiao told Rappler. “This is the opportunity I have before I focus on the next hard work in my life.
“I’m not old, I’m still young. I just have to focus on my other job to help the people.”
Bradley, 32, is an unpopular choice for Pacquiao’s April 9 date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which will come 11 months after he lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr in the sport’s most lucrative fight to date.
Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts) dominated Bradley in their first fight in 2012, but lost a decision in one of the sport’s most controversial decisions of the past decade. Pacquiao gained a measure of justice when he won a decision two years later in a more competitive fight.
(WATCH: A look back at Pacquiao vs Bradley 1 and 2)
Pacquiao says it was his promoter Top Rank who picked Bradley. It mattered little to him whether it was Bradley, or Terence Crawford, or Amir Khan, as were the other choices that had been considered.
“I don’t care. I don’t care,” Pacquiao repeated.
Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) struggled in two fights following the Pacquiao rematch but looked strong under new trainer Teddy Atlas, stopping a ring-worn Brandon Rios for the first time in his career in November.
Atlas preached the importance of studying film and maintaining a positive outlook as keys to turning the 32-year-old American’s fortunes. Pacquiao, though, is unconvinced that a change in cornerman can make for a difference in a 3rd meeting.
“He can [only] be Timothy Bradley. I know his style,” said Pacquiao.
“I’m trying to have a knockout in that fight,” Pacquiao adds, though he hasn’t scored one since 2009 when he stopped Miguel Cotto in 12 rounds. “I’m not saying to predict the fight, but I’m trying to do my best so the people enjoy my last fight.”
Pacquiao will fly to the United States for a kick-off press tour later in January, after which he’ll begin the final training camp of his career. If Pacquiao sticks to his word and joins his rival Mayweather in post-boxing life, numbered are the days to which his time will be segmented by the buzzing of 3-minute round bells in the gym.
The unique thwack of his punches on the mitts and bags, which became the soundtrack to the Wild Card Gym, will go silent, and the golden sparring gear that obscured his face in closed gym sessions will no longer be of use to him.
His final training sessions will be more days in the office before he trades that in for another type of office. He remains professional about getting on with the business of being a fighter.
“I always miss the boxing. Yes, I’m excited to come back to training.” – Rappler.com