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Pacquiao dreams of presidency

Former eight-division world boxing champion eyes Malacañang

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10:34 PM July 28th, 2013

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July 28th, 2013 10:34 PM

FIRST COUPLE WANNABE Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao escorts wife Vice Gov. Jinkee to the Batasang Pambansa. RICHARD A. REYES

MACAU—Boxing great Manny Pacquiao is harboring thoughts of running for president in his beloved Philippines when he finally hangs up his gloves.

In an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse Saturday, the most successful Filipino boxer ever, who is also a congressman of Sarangani, admitted he had considered seeking the presidency of the 95 million-strong nation.

When pressed on whether he had thought about shooting for the top job, the soft-spoken 34-year-old replied “Yes.”

Drawing parallels between his boxing and political careers, the former world champion in eight weight divisions said: “When I started boxing, of course I was planning, you know, and thinking about getting to become a champion. So when I enter politics it’s the same thing.

“But, you know, it’s far away,” he said, adding: “It’s God’s will.”

Before that, however, Pacquiao whose record stands at 54 wins, five losses and two draws, must concentrate on his latest bout—a post breakfast-time tear-up with American Brandon Rios set at The Venetian resort-hotel in Macau at 10 a.m. on Nov. 24.

The unconventional start time is for the benefit of the lucrative US pay-per-view audience, who will be settling down to watch the fight mid-evening on Saturday, as top promoter Bob Arum tries to elbow his way into the China market.

Despite his last fight ending in a disastrous knockout, when Juan Manuel Marquez caught him with a huge right hand that saw the Filipino crumple to the canvas, Pacquiao refuses to entertain the notion that he will lose a third straight bout, or retire.

He said he was “100 percent” sure he would beat Rios (31-1-1), giving him one more chance to regain his credibility—and potentially another shot at a world title.

“He’s OK but I can say he’s a greasy fighter and he loves to fight inside, he loves to fight toe-to-toe,” Pacquiao said in an interview on Saturday as he kicked off a promotional tour for the Rios battle.

“This is going to be a good fight —more action in the ring. Hopefully he won’t run away.”

Pacquiao insists he is as fit as ever, will focus on not leaving himself open to Marquez-style punishment, and has ignored calls from friends, family and media commentators, fearful for his health, to call it a day.

Once regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, he dismisses the possibility of defeat at the hands of the much younger —and possibly hungrier—US foe.

“There’s a little bit of pressure for this fight but I believe in myself that I can still fight and improve,” he said. “I still can knock somebody out in the ring.”

Pacquiao conceded that his dearest were desperate for him to bow out of the fight game.

“Especially my mother,” he admitted. “My mother doesn’t want me to fight anymore, she doesn’t like it,” he said. “She wants me to focus on serving people.”

His trainer too, the legendary Freddie Roach, has told ESPN that if he loses to Rios it will be the last time he sets foot in the ring.

Acknowledging he is no longer a young fighter, Pacquiao said: “Of course, my mind is still there but I have to adjust a little bit of something in my body because I’m 34.”

And the one question that has for years dogged Pacquiao— whether a dream clash with undefeated world champion Floyd Mayweather will ever happen?

“I’ve stopped thinking about him because I don’t think he will fight me. I’ve been waiting four years already,” he said.

Pacquiao, a second-term lawmaker, has so far filed five bills in the House of Representatives.

The measures he principally authored seek to create a boxing commission, put up breast care centers in every region, establish a community fitness center in every barangay, build a provincial hospital in Sarangani, and amend the Philippine Sports Commission act.

Of the five bills, the breast care center measure is the one that’s not new for him, since he had authored a similar bill in the 15th congress in 2010.

Not surprisingly, Pacquiao is also looking after the welfare of active and old boxers.

A boxing commission would be tasked to provide procedures to protect boxers from physical and financial exploitation, and provide those who compete and win in international matches with comprehensive health-care benefits, alternative livelihood programs, a life insurance system, and reliable death benefits.

Another bill he filed seeks to have fitter Filipinos.

Under his measure, these centers in every barangay would promote physical education, wellness, and sports activities. These would be staffed by full-time fitness instructors who will be paid by the municipal or city health office.

The Sarangani lawmaker also wants to put up a provincial hospital in his province, with at least 100 beds. He seeks to allocate P200 million for the project.

He also seeks to amend the charter of the PSC.

He said there were legal ambiguities that need to be clarified, such as the computation of the commission’s actual share of funds from other government agencies. The terms of commissioners must be fixed as well, and their mission redefined to ensure proper coordination with stakeholders, he added. With a report from Leila Salaverria

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