This week, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao all but locked up a seat in the Senate of his native Philippines. To many observers, this is seen as a final step on the way toward a run for the nation’s presidency.
If that’s what is waiting in Pacquiao’s future, it does seem unlikely that he’ll enter the ring again. This was the sentiment Pacquiao’s promoter relayed to Ring Magazine’s Mitch Abramson: “I think at this moment, the job of the job of a senator in the Philippines is very time-consuming and I don’t expect to see Manny Pacquiao in the ring ever again.”
It’s normally very tough to believe that a boxer is truly retiring the first time he says it. It’s hard to believe the second time and often the third, fourth and even fifth. When a man can receive a six, seven or even eight figure payday for a single night of work, it’s tough to walk away. And in Pacquiao’s case, a return bout would likely generate eight figures.
But we’ve never had a boxer walk away from the sport to become a major political figure in his nation. Like all iconic fighters, Pacquiao is special.
I have always felt a bit cynical about Pacquiao’s political career. He is the most famous and revered person in an extremely poor and notoriously corrupt country. Whenever I see him attempting to discuss social or political issues of any complexity at all, it’s hard for me not to view him as a puppet, and likely an unwary one.
At the same time, I personally live in a country where a reality television show star with no coherent or consistent policy positions has gained the nomination of one of the two political parties. If nothing else, Pacquiao has always struck me as motivated by a sincere desire to help his fellow citizens. He’s one of the great success stories in the history of civilization–from grinding poverty to international superstar to major national political figure.
As I said, no matter where a person ranks Pacquiao on the list of all-time, pound-for-pound boxers, there is no question that he is special.