The storied, rags-to-riches career of boxer Manny Pacquiao ended officially, and emotionally, Tuesday with a 14-minute video that ended with Pacquiao saying: “I have heard the final bell.”
That was typical Pacquiao, who spent the earlier bulk of the video thanking everybody who helped make him famous and successful. He missed nobody, from close friends to Philippine boxing fans, to political supporters, to his longtime public relations man Fred Sternburg. He even thanked sportswriters. There was also a special segment of gratitude for longtime trainer Freddie Roach, whose gym in Hollywood has been Pacquiao’s home away from home for the bulk of his 72 fights, 62 of them wins and two draws. Also getting a heartfelt and well-deserved good-bye was longtime promoter Bob Arum, who put on the bulk of Pacquiao’s bouts in Las Vegas.
This marked the end of one international career of prominence and the possible beginning of another. Pacquiao has been a Philippine congressman, a senator and now a candidate for the country’s presidency. He announced last week that he would run, but even that didn’t slow the speculation that he would also continue to box. His most recent bout was a multi-million-dollar affair in Las Vegas, when he lost a bid to regain his 147-pound title against little-known Cuban Yordenis Ugas. Pacquiao is 42, but his love for the sport of boxing did not seem to erode with age.
In a recent interview before the Ugas fight, Roach — mindful of Pacquiao’s longevity and unwavering enthusiasm for the sport — said his ideal scenario for his prize student was that he win the presidency and also come back and win one more boxing match.
Now, Roach will need to settle for half of that, and as a former fighter who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease after too many of his own battles in the ring, he will not be disappointed.
Pacquiao’s boxing career produced many millions of dollars and some of it went back directly and immediately to the people of the Philippines. He has long said was his main goal in life was, “serving the people.” Now, instead of cash handouts and new fishing boats and sub-divisions of homes built for the homeless at his expense, he will attempt to serve those same people from the highest perch in the country.
Were he to win, it would be an unprecedented story — 35 years ago, he was selling pencils on the streets of General Santos City and taking on boxing matches for a few dollars, so he could help feed his family. Soon, that family could become an entire country.
The Philippine presidential election is May 9, 2022.