GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—First, there was boxing. Then he went into politics, getting himself elected to Congress. He also tried singing, attempted to break into the movies and also preached the Bible.
Now, he wants to go into professional basketball.
In spite of his varied interests, eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao in an interview on Thursday assured his diehard fans that boxing—not basketball—remained his top priority.
“They have nothing to worry about. I’m more of a boxer than a basketball player. I will play basketball but not to the extent of risking my bread and butter, which is boxing,” Pacquiao said in the vernacular.
Fair and square
Despite the glories that he has reaped as a boxer, the 35-year-old Pacquiao also indicated that he was concerned about his responsibilities as a lawmaker.
“I’m aware of the institution where I am in,” the Sarangani representative said. “As a lawmaker, I have to make sure that the dignity of the institution I’m representing is protected. I’d like to show to the world that even as a boxing icon and a lawmaker, I can play fair and square in a competitive game, like in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association).”
Pacquiao’s love for boxing is understandable.
In his classic rematch with American boxer Timothy Bradley on April 12, the Filipino ring idol earned $20 million in 36 minutes—not exactly the kind of money he would earn if he spent his entire life as a basketball player.
Coach for KIA
Pacquiao confirmed that he would play basketball when the team KIA joins the PBA tournament in October.
“I thank those who expressed concern over my decision to play in professional basketball. I understand the game. I will focus more on coaching rather than playing, especially during crucial games,” Pacquiao said.
He said he planned to give more playing time to other players, particularly if the game got highly physical.
Some fans have expressed concern that Pacquiao’s status as a boxing icon and even as a lawmaker might be demeaned if, during a game, an opponent threw an elbow at him or block or stole the ball from him.
What matters most
“That’s part of the game. To me, what matters most is humility even amidst derision as well as grace and sportsmanship amidst defeat,” he said.
Pacquiao said the KIA management’s goal was to bring the team to the championship finals within three years.
Pacquiao also spoke of boxing’s future in a separate interview with Malaysia’s New Straits Times during a visit to Malaysia with a business delegation.
Pacquiao told the Times that Asian prizefighters needed greater support and more discipline if they were to become world-beaters.
“We have a lot of good talent in Asia, especially in our country, where there are a lot of young ones who can do the country proud,” he said.
“Fighters need to have good coaches, trainers and facilities. It is also important to educate them about what it takes to be a good boxer and how a boxer’s life should be,” he added.
Pacquiao said that Asian fighters also needed to toughen up mentally.
“I did not have a lot of chances to fight as an amateur in Asia. I had already turned pro when I was 16, so I did not get to compete in [events] such as the Asian Games or even the Olympics,” he said.
“To become a professional is not easy. My advice to those hoping to make it is to love their job, focus, believe in God and, most importantly, stay disciplined.”—With a report from AFP