MANILA • Eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao yesterday apologised for describing homosexuals as "worse than animals" after his remarks sparked a firestorm of criticism in his native Philippines.
Now in the twilight of his boxing career, the 37-year-old is reinventing himself as a Bible-bearing politician ahead of the country's May elections, when he will run for a Senate seat.
"I'm sorry for comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt," he said in a video post on Instagram, his arms crossed.
He said he was not condemning homosexuals but was standing by his Christian faith.
In an interview aired this week by local broadcaster TV5 in, he had said: "It's common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals."
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church and 80 per cent of the country's 100 million people subscribe to the Christian faith.
The country's most popular gay comedian, Vice Ganda, posted #PrayForMannyPacquiao to his 6.7 million followers on Twitter as he criticised the boxer.
"Some people think they can judge people like God just because they've attended a prayer meeting and read the Bible," he said. "The Senate needs experts on politics and law, not blind prophets."
Pacquiao gave the TV interview as part of his campaign for one of 12 seats in the nationally-elected Senate. He represents his wife's impoverished home province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives. The most recent surveys suggest he would win despite the fact that he is notorious for his chronic absences, favouring boxing training over legislation.
But before that, he will return to the ring on April 9 in Las Vegas to take on American Timothy Bradley for a third time.
Pacquiao, who has a record of 57-6-2 with 38 knockouts, has not fought since a May 2 unanimous-decision loss to unbeaten Floyd Mayweather last year.