LOS ANGELES • Manny Pacquiao's seven-month hiatus can hardly be considered a retirement, but there is no doubt the boxing octuple champion used the time off to reflect on his passion for the sport.
"I thought I wouldn't see you again, but now I'm here to continue my journey," said the newly-elected Philippines senator who is in the final hours of preparations for today's title fight against Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas.
"I respect Vargas and his team, how dedicated they are. I feel what he's feeling right now because I've been there when I was 27 years old and I know how hungry I was."
Pacquiao, 37, is an eight-division world champion, something he takes great pride in. It is a record that trainer Freddie Roach thinks will not be broken in his lifetime.
"Winning world titles in eight divisions is not that easy," he said. "That is not me boasting. I am just happy to be a part of the history."
The Filipino looked impressive in April when he dominated Timothy Bradley in their third fight - one he said would be his last.
Today, if he gets past World Boxing Organisation welterweight champion Vargas, as many think he will, Pacquiao could be looking at a fight against unbeaten Terence Crawford next year.
The way Pacquiao's been able to juggle 14-hour days in the Philippines backs up the notion that he could continue to fight for some time at a high level.
In a typical day of wearing two hats, he says he wakes up for a 7am run. He has to be at the Senate at 10am for meetings and then the afternoon sessions run until 5pm.
The Filipino goes to the gym in the evening where he works out until 9pm before heading home.
"It's not easy being a senator working in the office and being a boxer while you're training. It's hard, but it's a good thing when you are happy and enjoying it," he said.
The 27-year-old Vargas will have a 12.7cm height and 10.1cm reach advantage in the ring at the Thomas & Mack Centre today.
"I had a great training camp. This has been my best to date," said Vargas. "I'm very happy with my team, they're bringing out the best in me.
"We're looking stronger, faster, we've over-exceeded every aspect in training when it comes to speed, power, intelligence in the ring, ring savvy."
Vargas is hoping to catch Pacquiao with his guard down, much like Juan Manuel Marquez did in his 2012 knockout of Pacman to win their fourth fight.
"We have a strong hook, we have a strong right, either way. If he wants to sneak over to the right we'll catch him there, if he wants to sneak over to the left we'll get him there," the American said.