LAS VEGAS • Manny Pacquiao admitted he was "50-50" about retirement after bidding farewell to boxing on Saturday with a vintage performance to defeat long-time rival Tim Bradley.
The 37-year-old had promised to deliver an explosive display and did not disappoint 14,665 fans who had crammed into the MGM Grand Garden Arena to catch what may have been the final curtain call of an icon.
Pacquiao, the only man to capture world titles in eight different weight divisions, produced flashes of brilliance and knocked down Bradley twice on his way to a unanimous decision in the welterweight duel. The judges' scorecards told the story of his dominance in the non-title duel, with the southpaw winning by identical margins of 116-110 on all three cards.
It was the sort of performance his admirers believe could persuade him to prolong a career that has earned him more than US$500 million (S$674 million) over 21 years.
A smiling Pacquiao later appeared before reporters and admitted that while he was conflicted about quitting the ring, his decision - for now - was to spend more time with his family before concentrating on his political career in the Philippines.
STEPPING AWAY, FOR NOW
My heart is 50-50. But I love my family, I honour my family, my kids... right now, my decision is to retire.
MANNY PACQUIAO, on whether he is thinking of continuing his boxing career rather than retire after his win by unanimous decision over Tim Bradley.
Asked if he might best serve his homeland by continuing to fight, Pacquiao said he had promised his family he would retire.
"Let me enjoy first a retired life," he said. "I'm not there yet, so I don't know what it feels like. But I made a commitment to my family. I made my decision."
Invited to make a definitive declaration of retirement, he smiled.
"My heart is 50-50," he said. "But I love my family, I honour my family, my kids... right now, my decision is to retire."
Pacquiao, whose last outing was his ill-fated "Fight of the Century" against Floyd Mayweather last May, clearly relished his return to the ring after an 11-month layoff, smiling throughout his third battle with Bradley.
"I felt fresh, every round, it was exciting - I felt like I did when I started first boxing here in America in 2001," he said. "If you ask me about my condition, my body - my body feels okay, I can still give 100 per cent, training."
His closest boxing confidant, trainer Freddie Roach, admitted he hoped to see the Filipino fight on.
"I know he's in physical shape to keep fighting - his speed is good, his legs are good, his work ethic is great," he said.
Pacquiao's masterclass in ringcraft on Saturday - the 66th bout of his career -merely confirmed the trainer's suspicion that he was capable of extending his career.
Bradley (33-2-1) landed occasionally but it was Pacquiao (58-6-2) who did the most damage, with a straight left that caught his American rival flush on the chin in the second round.
In the fifth round, the Filipino uncorked a series of combinations to score heavily.
In the seventh, Pacquiao stretched his lead further, scoring a knockdown with a right hook to the chin that sent Bradley falling to the canvas.
The American responded bravely in the eighth however, wobbling Pacquiao with a left hook and backing up the Filipino relentlessly.
Yet Pacquiao's response in the ninth was emphatic, luring in Bradley and then tagging him with a left hook to leave the American shaken. A further left hook sent Bradley down for the second time.
Bradley, who beat Pacquiao via a deeply controversial split decision in 2012 before losing the rematch, paid tribute to his opponent.
"He always seemed to be in the right spot," said the 32-year-old. "He was a step ahead of me when I was supposed to be a step ahead of him.
"He used his experience against me, his ability and he won the fight tonight...
"I'm in there with a special man, Manny Pacquiao."