The latest political battle for Manny Pacquiao does not necessarily mean we have seen the legendary Filipino in the ring for the last time.
That decision could come in the near future, however.
The former eight-division boxing champion and current Senator in his native Philippines has accepted the nomination of the PDP-Laban Pacquiao faction to run for president in the nation’s upcoming election next May. His announcement speech spoke to combat poverty and corruption among an intended “22-round” plan addressing issues that continue to plague the Philippines. A subsequent interview suggested that the political decision could come at the cost of leaving behind the sport that made him rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams.
"My boxing career [may be] over,” Pacquiao confessed during an interview on “Toni Talks” with reporter Toni Gonzaga, which posted shortly after confirmation of his 2022 presidential bid. “I've been boxing for a long time and my family would always tell me it's time to stop.”
A more recent conversation with his boxing team offered clarification on the suggestion that Pacquiao—who turns 43 in December—is done with the sport.
“There is nothing 100% set that [Pacquiao] is done with boxing,” Sean Gibbons, president of Pacquiao’s MP Promotions told BoxingScene.com on Monday. “He will make a decision in October. [For now], he is just discussing ‘maybe or maybe not.’ Nothing official.”
Pacquiao’s recent acceptance of the presidential nomination on Sunday marked his first future commitment to politics or boxing since his most recent fight. Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) last fought in a twelve-round, unanimous decision defeat to Yordenis Ugas this past August at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight was made on eleven days’ notice, when Ugas agreed to step in for an injured Errol Spence. Talks have surfaced of a potential rematch, to which Ugas was receptive.
At the time, Pacquiao had already hinted at a potential run for the soon-to-be-open presidential seat in the 2022 Philippine elections. Confirmation arrived Sunday following the national assembly with the PDP-Laban.
"I am a fighter and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” Pacquiao stated in his announcement during a rally attended by an estimated 10,000 people. “In my whole life, I have not backed out of a fight. “Because in the name of principle, the nation's pride, I stand reaffirmed and strong.”
Pacquiao previously declared in 2015 that he would not juggle his boxing and political career ahead of a senatorial bid, which came during his second term as a congressman in the Sarangani province. Pacquiao claimed one of the twelve open Senate seats in 2016, at which point he claimed to have been done with boxing following a twelve-round win over Timothy Bradley in their April 2016 rubber match.
The retirement was short-lived, even by boxing standards. Pacquiao returned to the ring that November, outpointing Jessie Vargas to become a three-time WBO welterweight titlist. The reign was brief, losing a highly questionable twelve-round unanimous decision to unbeaten Jeff Horn in July 2017.
A 54-week break followed before returning to win three straight fights in the span of just over one year. Included among the run was a twelve-round, split decision victory over then-unbeaten WBA champion Keith Thurman. The July 2019 title win saw Pacquiao—at age 40—become the oldest boxer in history to claim a piece of the welterweight crown.
The feat was added to an incredible boxing career filled with record-breaking moments. Over the course of his 26-year pro career, Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) has won titles and/or recognized lineal championships in a record eight weight divisions beginning with an eighth-round knockout of lineal/WBC flyweight champion Chatchai Sasakul in December 1998.
From there, Pacquiao would go on to win belts and championships at junior featherweight (IBF), featherweight (lineal), junior lightweight (lineal/WBC), lightweight (WBC), junior welterweight (lineal/IBO), welterweight (three WBO reigns, one WBA reign) and junior middleweight (WBO).
The run also included his becoming one of the most marketable boxers of his time, if not all-time. The Filipino southpaw dropped a May 2015 unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather in the highest-grossing boxing event in history. The fight holds the record for the most Pay-Per-Views sold and revenue generated ($430,000,000 in domestic sales alone, along with the highest grossing live gate with more than $72,000,000 in ticket sales.
Pacquiao is also the only boxer ever to hold at least one title in four separate decades. The feat was established without making a successful title defense of the WBA welterweight title he wrested from Thurman, though holding the belt long enough to drift into a fourth decade. His title reign came to an unceremonious close when the WBA downgraded his reign to “Champion in Recess” in January, while promoting Ugas from WBA “World” to WBA “Super” welterweight champion.
That debate was ultimately settled in the ring this past August.
Regardless of whether Pacquiao returns to the ring, his legacy is set as an all-time great boxer. He now looks to leave the same mark in politics, where his career began with a defeat during the 2007 Philippine congressional elections in the first district of the South Cotabato province. Pacquiao announced a second congressional bid, this time in Sarangani, the hometown of his wife, Jinkee. It was a successful move, as Pacquiao won the May 2010 election by a near two-to-one margin.
Interestingly, it came at a time when the next act of his boxing career took shape, rebounding from back-to-back losses in 2012 to eventually regain his WBO welterweight title in an April 2014 win over Tim Bradley. Pacquiao would go on to participate in the highest grossing event in boxing history, along with enjoying two more welterweight title reigns.
Pacquiao has never come close to maintaining that level of popularity, though still going on to enjoy two more welterweight title reigns among his seven fights since that evening. The stretch also included the next big step in his political career, when Pacquaio claimed one of the twelve open Senate seats during the 2016 Philippine election.
Now comes the toughest challenge in that world. Pacquiao—while a global boxing icon—currently trails in the polls, though that has not discouraged his desire to make a difference. Presidential aspirations are just the latest step in a political career dedicated to challenging what he and many other claims to be a corrupt government.
“Politics is my lifelong commitment to serve the people,” insists Pacquiao.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox