BEVERLY HILLS: Manny Pacquiao says he knew almost as soon as his retirement began that he had made a mistake, revealing that loneliness and love for the sport had drawn him back into the ring.
The legendary Filipino icon, who hung up his gloves after what was supposed to be a farewell victory over Timothy Bradley in April, ended his short-lived retirement in early August.
The 37-year-old fighter is now targeting a slice of the world welterweight title when he faces World Boxing Organization champion Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas on November 5.
Pacquiao had initially planned to focus on his political career after being elected to the Philippines Senate in May.
But politics proved to be no substitute for pugilism in the eyes of the Filipino great, who showed he had plenty left in the tank with his stylish win over Bradley five months ago.
“First when I hung up my gloves I realised,” Pacquiao told Agence France-Presse on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“I felt lonely. And thinking about it over and over, I thought ‘Boxing still likes me. Boxing still loves me.’ So why stop my boxing career? So that’s why I decided to continue my journey as a boxer.”
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-serving cornerman revealed the fighter had made up his mind to scrap his retirement before he had even flown back to the Philippines from Las Vegas following the Bradley bout.
“Before he left for the airport after the last fight, he told me very clearly ‘We will fight again’,” Roach told AFP. “It was no surprise.”
The only surprise, Roach said, was the timing.
“I knew that after he became a Senator he would fight again. I just thought it would be next year.”
Pacquiao insists that while his boxing career is now firmly back under way, he remains committed to politics, maintaining that he has had a “perfect” attendance record in the Senate since his election.
“I’ve learned a lot and not only talking about the problems. The most important thing is common sense,” Pacquiao said.
The only challenge has been fitting his fitness regime around his duties in the Senate.
“In the morning I’ll go for a jog and then rest a little bit, and then start work in the office,” he said.
“By 10 o’clock I go to the Senate building and attend committee meetings. And after the committee meetings, attend the full session.
“And after the session I go straight to the gym, which is only 500 meters away from the Senate, and then train. After training, back home and rest.”
Roach said he had been impressed by Pacquiao’s conditioning after seeing him this week.
“He works out every day. He’s in pretty good shape,” he told Aagence France-Presse. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen.”
Many commentators have speculated that Pacquiao views his election to the Senate as a stepping stone for a presidential run.
Pacquiao dismissed the suggestion however. “That’s not in my mind right now,” he said “My focus is to serve honestly, and to pass laws that will help less fortunate families.”
In the near-term though, Pacquiao’s gaze is firmly fixed on his date with Vargas (27-1 with 10 knockouts) at the 19,000-capacity Thomas and Mack Center.
Mexican-American Vargas says he is aiming to avenge Pacquiao’s numerous victories over Mexican fighters during his career.
Pacquiao smiled when asked for his reaction to Vargas’s comments.
“This is not a movie. This is not a revenge movie. This is sport. Do your job and I’ll do my job,” he said.
As part of his determination to return with a bang, Pacquiao also ensured that 7,000 tickets for the fight were made available for the rock-bottom price of $50.
As of Thursday, 2,000 of the tickets had already been sold.
“It’s a big challenge for me to get that belt again and prove that I can still manage serving the people and being a boxer,” Pacquiao said.
“I want to give back to the fans who’ve supported me. I’m selling 7,000 tickets for $50. I want to thank the fans who’ve supported me. It’s going to be more action than we have before because Vargas is a champion who loves to fight. And that’s the kind of fight I like. So the fans won’t be bored.”
Pacquiao also said he would also welcome the opportunity of a second fight against Floyd Mayweather but questioned whether the American could be lured out of retirement for a money-spinning rematch.
“If the fans want it, and he wants it, then I’m open to it. I’m open to any fight,” Pacquiao said.
“You know in his heart, he doesn’t have concern for the fans. His only concern is to make money. My concern is not only to make money but how I entertain the people, how I entertain the fans,” he added.
Mayweather outpointed Pacquiao in a unanimous decision victory in their May 2015 superfight, the highest-grossing bout in history which grossed more than $500 million according to most estimates.
Pacquiao, who later said he was troubled by a shoulder injury during the fight, insisted however that he believes he won a battle which largely failed to live up to its billing.
“I respect and honor the decision of the judges in the Mayweather fight. But if you ask me, I tell you frankly, in my heart, I believe I won that fight,” said Pacquiao.