World boxing champion Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday announced that he would likely retire next year after one last fight so he could focus on a career in politics, hopefully as a senator.
Pacquiao, a congressman representing Sarangani since 2010, this week declared his bid for a Senate seat in national elections to be held in May next year.
The 36-year-old boxer and lawmaker, winner of an unprecedented eight world titles in as many weight divisions and at times touted as a future President of the Philippines, said he had taken career advice from God.
“I think I’m ready [to retire]. I’ve been in boxing for more than 20 years,” Pacquiao said in an interview on ABS-CBN television. “I prayed to God for guidance and I am happy about it.”
Interviewed by reporters over dinner on Tuesday night, he said he needs to give up other things to allow him to focus on his job in case he wins a Senate seat in 2016.
“Malaking responsibilidad yan. Kailangan mag-focus na sa trabaho. Kaya nga matagal ako nagdesisyon. Pinag-iisipan natin ‘yan kung ano yung igi-give up ko sa mga pinagkakaabalahan ko, to focus on serving the people [Being a senator is a big responsibility. I really need to focus on the work ahead. That’s why it took me a while to decide. I am pondering what should I give up among the things I’m busy with and let me focus on serving the people],” according to Pacquiao.
Before the elections, he said, he plans to climb into the ring for what would probably be the last time, most likely in March.
Pacquiao added that he is yet to pick his next opponent, and was not ruling out a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., even though the American had already announced his retirement.
A rags-to-riches idol, Pacquiao, a former street vendor, has shrewdly parlayed his boxing success into a career in show business, product endorsements and politics.
Now representing his southern province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives, the pint-sized Pacquiao is also an improbable professional basketball player and a Christian pastor.
He was mercilessly criticized on social media this week after it was reported he had attended just four legislative sessions out of 70 this year because of sporting and other commitments.
Pacquiao said people should not be bothered by his absences in Congress because he has always tended to the needs of his constituents in Sarangani.
“Kung pag-uusapan natin law, mayroon pa bang law na hindi natin naipasa para makaahon ang mga mahihirap? Although ‘di ako nakikita sa Kongreso, palagi ako sa distrito ko, marami akong nagawa [If we’ll to talk about lawmaking, are there laws left to be passed that could alleviate the plight of the poor? Even though I am not seen in Congress, I’ve been always in my district and I have done a lot there],” he added.
“Yesterday [Tuesday], I delivered a State of the District Address where I laid down my accomplishments in my two terms in Congress and people were satisfied. They were happy with what they saw,” Pacquiao said.
Latest pre-election surveys put him in the winning circle of 12 senatorial aspirants in the 2016 polls.
Pacquiao also on Wednesday pledged that he would be a “serious” senator.
“I will not be absent because the whole country will be my responsibility,” he said.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Pacquiao enjoys a special “rapport” with the masses that would translate into electoral success.
“The perception is that he is approachable, he has an empathy for Filipinos,” Casiple noted.
But he warned that in the Senate, Pacquiao would be “under a microscope,” with many people looking for signs that he was not working or did not understand the issues.
Casiple also warned that even Pacquiao’s popularity might not be enough to get him the presidency.
“His popularity will not be much of an advantage because he will [then]be up against people who are also well-known,” he said.
Pacquiao heads his own political party but hinted also on Wednesday that he would run for the Senate under the banner of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the current main opposition leader who is running for President in 2016.
Also friendly with President Benigno Aquino 3rd, he said there is a possibility that he would become a common candidate of both the administration and opposition parties.
“That’s possible… other parties could adopt me as their candidate,” Pacquiao added.
He said he has spoken with representatives of the other parties and he is considering their offers.
“I’m still thinking about it and I’m asking God’s guidance. I have not made a decision. I’ll make an announcement when I file my certificate of candidacy [COC],” Pacquiao added.
Pacquiao is expected to file his COC on October 16, the last day for filing, as he will be in Qatar today to support Filipino boxers participating in Olympic Qualifiers.
He would later proceed to New York to receive an award from the United Nations, which, he said, he will also address. With AFP