By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Even Manny Pacquiao isn’t sure if his 26-year professional boxing career will end on Saturday night when he takes on Yordenis Ugás for the WBA welterweight title.
Pacquiao has plans and ambitions that go well beyond the fighting game at this point in his wild life, and that’s why he may be saying goodbye at the T-Mobile arena. If he goes to the presidential election in his home country of Philippines a few weeks after that fight, he will, as almost everyone expects, run for a job that will effectively prevent him from fighting again.
While 42-year-old Pacquiao hasn’t said anything official, fans around the world are realizing that this is at least one of the final chapters in a boxing story that is second to none.
“I could never have imagined what I would have achieved in boxing from the beginning of my career to this day,” said Pacquiao. “I went from nothing to something to be an inspiration for the people inside and outside the ring.”
Almost no one in boxing history has been able to do what Pacquiao aims to achieve in the next year – though it has for pretty much every year of the Filipino senator’s time in professional fighting game. If it were an achievable goal to be world champion in the eighth division, many boxers would have a collection like Pacquiao’s closet full of belts.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) returns to the ring after a two-year absence – the longest of his career – to battle for another world title in front of large Vegas and pay-per-view audiences.
In the next few weeks, almost everyone in the Philippines expects to declare their candidacy before the presidential election in May 2022.
A presidential campaign would be longer and more exhausting than any training camp in Los Angeles, where he teamed up again with Freddie Roach to prepare for yet another title challenge.
“The thing about Manny is that he’s almost always prepared when it’s time to start,” Roach said recently at the Wild Card Gym. “Even this time, after a two-year absence – the longest he has ever ridden without a fight – he got back to camp in good shape and the speed was still there. He takes care of what he has to take care of, even when everything else happens in his life. “
Pacquiao faces much tougher opportunities in his recent political ambitions than in the ring. He is a solid favorite to beat Ugás (26-4, 12 KOs), the reluctant Cuban veteran who had a surprising chance of a life-changing victory late on.
“I feel young right now,” said Pacquiao. “I’m just happy with what I do because boxing is my passion. I’m enjoying training camp and I was excited to be sacrificing and being disciplined every day to prepare for a fight like this. “
Pacquiao’s strength and speed hadn’t deteriorated much in his last fight against Keith Thurman. If he went up against Ugás with the same combination of skills, it would probably be too much for the man holding the belt Pacquiao Thurman took off in 2019 before the WBA abruptly awarded him to Ugás earlier this year.
“I didn’t like it that someone took my belt without challenging me in the ring,” said Pacquiao. “I am glad that we can resolve this dispute over the WBA title. It is always better to speak in the ring. “
Pacquiao doesn’t expect his longest layoff or late change of opponents to bother him. He was slated to fight Errol Spence Jr. until early last week when Spence discovered during a pre-battle examination that he had a torn retina.
Roach knows more than anyone about Pacquiao’s readiness, and sees no public cause for concern. He seems content with Pacquiao’s training this summer, even though he spends long nights with Zoom taking on his Congressional duties – and likely laying the groundwork for his greatest quest.
If this turns out to be the last fight of their partnership, Roach will be saddened to lose regular touch with his old friend – but he is confident that Pacquiao will go out in a way that befits their two decades together.
“Before the training camp, someone asked when I last spoke to him and I said, ‘It’s been over two years,'” said Roach. “’You’re not talking on the phone?’ And I said, ‘We both (stink) on the phone. We’re both terrible operators. ‘ He never calls me. I never call him. He’s sending me tapes of his workouts, which I really appreciate, and I’ll call him on his birthday. I know his birthday. Maybe it’s the only one I know. “
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