GENERAL SANTOS CITY – On the occasion of his 39th birthday last Dec. 17, before a sizeable crowd that included President Rodrigo Duterte, Manny Pacquiao made an official announcement.
Despite being endorsed by Duterte, Pacquiao sounded more at ease providing details about boxing than his political plans for 2022.
In fact, Pacquiao is looking at resurrecting his career with a comeback fight he wants staged in April 2018.
No opponent has been named nor a venue identified but Pacquiao is dying to get back into action and regain his lofty place among the sport’s marquee names. “I am looking at April as the date of my return to the ring,” said an upbeat Pacquiao, whose last outing was a heartbreaking decision defeat to Jeff Horn last July at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
Pacquiao declined to say who would be his dancing partner although he had floated the idea of facing MMA star Conor McGregor. Despite the buzz over Pacquiao’s desire to tangle with McGregor, nothing solid came out of it and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum is looking at putting up a Pacquiao headliner in the US.
Arum revealed that representatives of Pacquiao have already reached out to the 86-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer about a matchup that will be against an interesting opponent. Everything’s hazy at this point and Arum believes things will start falling into place as soon as Pacquiao returns home from Korea from a family vacation after Christmastime.
Besides, Arum has yet to be briefed about Pacquiao’s schedule in the Senate, something that has become a major concern as evidenced with what happened in the runup to the Horn fight.
In the months leading up to Horn, Pacquiao was forced to report to the gym irregularly.
There were times when he showed up shortly after lunch; and there were days when he had to train before noon or even late in the afternoon. But there were a couple of days when he didn’t even show up at all because he was either unwell or his schedule simply could not be tweaked to include a short gym session.
Interestingly, these are things that Pacquiao has to refrain from doing once he begins the two-month preparation for his much-awaited bout.
Horn’s camp sensed Pacquiao wasn’t taking him seriously despite claims to the contrary and the Filipino pride got a jolt when Horn bulldozed his way to a stunning decision win.
If Pacquiao doesn’t show up in tip-top shape the next time against an opponent-yet-to-be-named, he will likely suffer heavily and his image – in boxing and politics – will most probably take a massive hit.
Such things happening could very well be costly for someone who the public treats as though he walks on water. Last week, ladies wearing stilettos and men dressed in fancy suits, lined up a few feet from where Pacquiao sat just to have a selfie with him or have him sign up just about anything they can lay their hands on.
As the bevy of performers tried their best to outdo each other – from pop artist Joey Generoso to folk hero Freddie Aguilar and balladeer Jed Madela and comic Norman Mitchell – Pacquiao didn’t hesitate to get off from his seat so he could accommodate the countless photo requests.
He gladly posed for pictures and even offered to take the selfie while his amused guests giggled in excitement.
Despite coming off a loss, Pacquiao’s appeal remains intact and it will receive a boost once he gets back on track.
But that will largely depend on the kind of performance Pacquiao will come up next year because the public strongly feels that he is due for one big win. That, however, is getting ahead of the story.