MANILA: Philippine boxing great and former eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao said he was retiring from the “greatest sport in the world” on Wednesday to focus on his run for president in the 2022 race.
The 42-year-old sportsman, who has won 12 world titles and is also a senator, made the announcement in a 14-minute video posted on his official Facebook page.
“It is difficult to accept that my time as a boxer is over. Today, I am announcing my retirement,” said Pacquiao, who is often referred to as “Pacman” and “The Destructor.”
He added that he never thought the day would come, sharing highlights of his 26-year career as a professional boxer and recalling how he was once rejected by the Philippine team but soldiered on to pursue his passion.
“As I hang up my boxing gloves, I would like to thank the whole world, especially the Filipino people, for supporting Manny Pacquiao. Goodbye, boxing. Boxing has always been my passion ... I am grateful for all my accomplishments and the opportunity to inspire the fans.”
Renowned for his speedy footwork and boxing brilliance, Pacquiao is widely regarded as one of the top offensive fighters in the sport’s history, finishing his 72-fight career with 62 wins, eight losses and two draws.
“To the greatest fans and the greatest sport in the world, thank you!” he tweeted. “This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m at peace with it. Chase your dreams, work hard, and watch what happens.”
Pacquiao said on Sept. 19 that he was accepting the nomination of his political party, the PDP-Laban, to run for president in next year’s polls, ending weeks of speculation.
But Wednesday’s announcement still elicited an outpouring of support and admiration from fans who thanked him for uniting and inspiring Filipinos.
“Thank you Manny for inspiring us all and entertaining everyone amidst all problems ... We become one united Filipino once you are on the ringside!” fan Charlie Tanglao said in response to Pacquiao’s Facebook post.
“Honored to have attended your last fight,” another fan, Rafael Pena, wrote. “Thank you for your years of dedication to the sport ... You are and always will be my favorite boxer of all time and my number one pound for pound.”
But some experts have questioned his political viability.
“It would be better if Pacquiao runs for vice president instead, as he still lacks maturity in politics and leadership,” political analyst and executive director at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform Ramon Casiple told Arab News.
When asked if Pacquiao had what it took to run the country, Casiple replied: “He lacks experience as a senior political leader every time he speaks, that’s how voters will judge him as against their problems and all the issues now faced by our country.”
He said that, even as a senator, the former boxer did not “openly articulate his position,” especially on critical issues.
“His sincerity is there, we can see that. But sincerity is not enough. Leadership and quality are what people want to see (from presidential hopefuls), especially now that we are faced with the pandemic and economic crisis.”
Pacquiao’s popularity itself was not a “decisive factor” to resolve the nation’s problems, he added.