With possible presidential run looming, this could be end of Pacquiao’s boxing career, win or lose
LAS VEGAS — Father Time remains unbeaten but Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters in boxing history, is doing his best to stave him off for a bit longer.
The Filipino legend is 42 now with a resume stuffed with historical accomplishments over a 26-year-career. Where shall we start?
–Titles in a record eight divisions (flyweight and junior featherweight to junior middleweight).
–World titles in a record four decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s).
–The only fighter to be the lineal champion in five weight classes (flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight).
–Three-time Ring and Boxing Writers Association of America fighter of the year (2006, 2008, 2009) and 2000s fighter of the decade from both.
–Participated in the highest grossing boxing event of all time, some $650 million, in his 2015 mega welterweight unification fight with Floyd Mayweather, which broke every conceivable revenue record, including biggest gate and best-selling pay-per-view.
–Became the oldest welterweight world champion at age 40 when he dropped and masterfully outpointed then-undefeated Keith Thurman in July 2019, although he was unceremoniously stripped by the WBA in January due to inactivity despite being one of many titleholders who were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But everybody, Pacquiao included, knows that his career is near the end. Many believe it will conclude, win or lose, with his 72nd fight, which will come against Yordenis Ugas, whom the WBA elevated to its welterweight champion after stripping Pacquiao, in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions card on Saturday (Fox Sports PPV, 9 p.m. ET, $74.99) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I never imagined being at this point now, when I started my career,” Pacquiao said. “Especially to be here now and still fighting the best. It’s truly a gift that I’ve received. I know my career will not last forever, that’s why I’m starting to help the young fighters in this sport who want to follow in my footsteps. It’s very important to me at this point in my career.”
By the way, here are the prediction picks from The Ring staff and select sages.
At 42, Pacquiao could break his own welterweight age record by beating Ugas and reclaiming the belt taken from him. But as much as Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) loves boxing – he repeatedly says that the sport is “my passion” – he also believes he has a higher calling in Filipino politics. He serves as a senator and many around him view it as a slam dunk that he will run for president of the country, which would lead to the end of his boxing career if elected. The election is in May 2022.
With the prospect of the of his end of his 26-year career coming in a few days, there is a sense of nostalgia as Pacquiao goes through the preparation for Ugas and the fight week activities.
“I feel sad if I think this is my last fight. I can feel it when I am thinking if this is my last fight,” Pacquiao said in a moment of reflection on Wednesday. “It could be or there could be more. I love boxing. Boxing is my passion. That’s why I keep fighting, inspiring people. I really love to fight.”
But there is also the potential presidential run.
Pacquiao claims he has not decided yet if he will run even though many see it as a forgone conclusion.
“It’s hard to say no, I’m not, but let’s finish this fight first,” Pacquiao said. “Of course, I am a politician, so things are happening. Every fighter who became a boxer their dream is to become a champion. What’s your dream? To lead a nation, to lead the people is a dream. But you know right now I have no final decision yet.”
Pacquiao said he will make the decision “after this fight, probably next month, September.
“I can’t decide if this is going to be Manny’s last fight. Only he can decide if he wants to continue his legacy or not,” said Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao’s co-trainer and best friend. “If it were up to me, I’d want him to fight one more time in the Philippines for his people. It’s all up to Manny though.”
Whatever decision Pacquiao makes, it is very clear he is enjoying the build-up to the fight with Ugas, who became Pacquiao’s opponent on 11 days’ notice when unified welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. was forced out after a pre-fight medical exam revealed a torn retina.
“I feel young right now. I’m just happy with what I’m doing, because boxing is my passion,” Pacquiao said. “I enjoy training camp and I’m excited to sacrifice and be disciplined every day to prepare for a fight like this.
“I never imagined what I would have accomplished in boxing from the beginning of my career leading up to now. Amazing. God raised me from nothing to something. I went from nothing to something in order to be an inspiration for people both inside and outside of the ring. This is going to be a good action fight and I’m going to do my best Saturday night because I love to make the fans happy.”
Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), 35, a Cuba native fighting out of Miami, has been ever respectful of Pacquiao but is also very eager for a career-defining victory. He acknowledged possibly being Pacquiao’s last opponent.
“I have prepared for 12 hard rounds. If this is Pacquiao’s final fight, then he’s going to be up against a guy who brought his best and who is a world-class fighter,” Ugas said through an interpreter.
Ever the politician, Pacquiao left open the door that he could continue his career, at least for another fight or two.
He said if he keeps fighting he has two possible opponents in mind: Spence, if and when he is able to come back, and WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, whom he was close to making a fight with for this past spring, before Middle Eastern financing fell through.
“We almost had a fight with Crawford. As long as I am in boxing I am open and willing to fight Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, or anybody,” Pacquiao said.
But the prospect of Saturday’s fight, whether it was against Spence or Ugas, being the finale has been a consistent theme since the date was planned.
“It might be my last fight or there could be more,” Pacquiao said. “One at a time. That’s my answer to those questions on if this is my last fight. You never know.”
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