GENERAL SANTOS (Philippines) • Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao has opened the door to a lucrative rematch with Floyd Mayweather, telling Agence France-Presse that he still intends to retire after his next fight but that a comeback is possible.
The 37-year-old announced in January that his April 9 bout with American Timothy Bradley would be his last so that he could concentrate on a career in politics. However, following a high-energy training session in his hometown of General Santos, he said he loves the sport as much as ever and he could not rule out fighting again.
"It's hard to say right now," Pacquiao, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, said in an interview when asked about retirement. "I made my decision already that after this fight, I (will) retire. But I am not saying that, you know, boxing is closed to me. You never know."
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I am not saying that, you know, boxing is closed to me. You never know.
MANNY PACQUIAO, explaining that a return to the ring is still possible.
The Filipino made the comments when asked if a chance to avenge his crushing loss to American nemesis Mayweather last year would lure him out of retirement.
That fight shattered boxing revenue records, generating 4.5 million pay-per-view purchases and US$600 million (S$845.6 million) in gross revenue.
It capped a phenomenal rise for Pacquiao, whose journey from street kid to mega-rich athlete is a source of hope and inspiration for tens of millions of poor Filipinos.
Until this week, he had insisted repeatedly that he is very happy to be giving up the sport to pursue politics and his goal of fighting poverty in the Philippines.
A two-term congressman, he is looking to win a Senate seat in the May elections, and the official campaign is already under way. However, he sparked a storm of controversy this week when he said gays were "worse than animals" in an interview.
Gay and lesbian groups have since urged voters to boycott the boxing icon. An online petition is also underway asking sportswear giant Nike to drop him as an endorser.
He issued an apology on Tuesday but that did not stop him from being lambasted on social media. His Twitter followers dropped to around 11,000 yesterday from over 2 million, according to the online edition of Inquirer Radio.
Pacquiao aggravated a shoulder injury in the Mayweather bout and underwent surgery five days later. But he said his shoulder had recovered and he was in "100 per cent" condition to take on Bradley.
He also insisted that he remains as physically capable in the ring as a decade ago. "I don't feel different compared (with) when I was 27, 25," he said. "I am still the same because I discipline myself. Even if I don't have a fight and I am not in training, I exercise every day."
After overseeing training on Monday, long-time American mentor Freddie Roach said he suspected Pacquiao would be tempted back into the ring if he beats Bradley.
"I'll go along with him right now because he is running for Senator," Roach said when asked if he believed Pacquiao genuinely intended to retire. "But there's always that side of me that sees Senator Pacquiao (fight again). Because he likes that, he loves stuff like that."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS