Manny Pacquiao given May 27 deadline to accept Olympic spot
MANILA, Philippines — The clock is ticking on Manny Pacquiao’s Olympic dream, as Association of Boxing of Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) Executive Director Ed Picson has asked to hear definitively from the eight-division champion about whether he’ll accept AIBA’s wild card spot by May 27.
Picson picked that date because it’s the submission deadline for the Final Olympic Qualifier, which takes place June 16-25 in Baku, Azerbaijan, and he wants to avoid the decision being taken out of ABAP’s hands.
“I asked him to make a decision before May 27 because that’s actually the deadline for the submission of entries for the qualifying event,” said Picson, “because I don’t know if he can still get a Tripartite pass because that gets decided on not just by AIBA but also the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees).
“I don’t know if they’ve already met, those 3 groups. So if he doesn’t get a Tripartite pass, then that means he would have to qualify in the qualification event on June 16.”
Pacquiao, who announced that his third fight against Tim Bradley, in April, would be his last, left the door open to competing at the 2016 Olympics after being personally extended a wild card entry by AIBA president Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu. Pacquiao expressed concern after winning a 6-year term in the Philippine Senate about whether his constituents would question his dedication to his new job.
“People will say that this person was just elected, and in August he wants to compete in the Olympics,” Pacquiao said Thursday. “I need to ask if the Filipino people will allow me to participate in the Olympics.”
If Pacquiao does accept the offer, the 37-year-old will have to move down to junior welterweight, which is at a 64 kilogram (140.8 pounds) weight limit, where one of the 5 wild card spots are available. Pacquiao has fought just once in that weight class — a second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton in 2009 — but he has routinely weighed in under the 147-pound welterweight limit and trainer Freddie Roach has said he could even make lightweight if need be.
The 2016 Olympics will be the first to allow professional boxers to compete, and the first to exclude headgear since it was introduced before the 1984 Olympics.
If seeded, Pacquiao could skip the first two preliminary rounds, then fight in the third and have to win three more fights to win gold. Pacquiao had a reported 60-4 record as an amateur before turning pro in 1995. The Philippines has never won a gold medal at the Olympics, though five of their nine total Olympic medal wins have come in the boxing event.
Pacquiao would be the second oldest boxer to win Olympic gold should he be successful at 37 years and 249 days when the tournament concludes, just 5 days younger than Richard Gunn was when he won the featherweight gold in 1908.
The Philippines already has two boxers qualified for the 2016 Games, including junior flyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez. Picson says that bantamweight Mario Fernandez and welterweight Eumir Marcial will compete in the final qualifier, with either Ian Clark Bautista or Roldan Boncales competing in the flyweight division.
Picson assuaged concerns that lesser experienced fighters could be bludgeoned by Pacquiao, citing the cautious nature of Olympic officiating.
“There will be no bludgeoning because there are very strict rules in Olympic-style boxing,” said Picson. “The moment the boxer gets hit by a solid punch, whether he looks dizzy, whether he falls or not, he’s given an 8-count. If you get three 8-counts in a fight, you get disqualified. Or if the referee sees that it’s a mismatch, he’ll stop the fight.”
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.