Merry-go-round

In the aftermath of an embarrassing loss to last-minute replacement Yordenis Ugas last month, occasional legislator Manny Pacquiao hinted at retirement once again. It was a familiar refrain; in the last five years or so, he had been broaching the possibility of hanging up his gloves given his advancing age. In the wake of the setback he suffered at the hands of an opponent who had only 11 days to prepare for him and yet pummeled him en route to a unanimous-decision victory, however, his words rang truer than ever before.

To be sure, Pacquiao has had myriad reasons to exit stage left. Apart from his candidacy for the rocking chair, there are also the entreaties from his family sick of seeing him bloodied and bruised from fight after fight. Most importantly, there are his obligations outside the ring, not least of which involve his “commitment” to serve the country as a sitting senator. Something has had to give, and those who wish better for him and for the public who pay his salary continue to hope it would finally be his supposed sidelining as a boxer. They know it has been time for a while now: For all the otherworldly assets that ensure his place in history as one of boxing’s best, he has been finding it more and more difficult to prepare for any given fight. And, for a moment there, it felt like he, too, knew it was time.

As things have turned out, Pacquiao is apparently crossing his fingers for yet another big payday (or two) inside the ropes. Seam Gibbons, president of MP Promotions, told ESPN: “Until you see it officially come out on his Twitter or Instagram, he isn’t retired. Once you see it on a platform like that, it’s official.” Interesting choice of words, to say the least. And how about the pronouncements of the future Hall of Famer? “Anything else is just talk about what his thoughts are in the moment. It’s coming from him, but it’s hearsay.”

How can a statement uttered directly by Pacquiao be termed hearsay? Forget that he has changed his mind on the matter again and again. He says it’s because he’s “passionate about the sport.” The more practical answer, however is this: He needs the money. He may be a billionaire, but he has political ambitions that need capital for fuel. He just declared his intention to run for president of the Philippines, which means he will have to mount a prolonged campaign that needs a significant amount of personal money to sustain. And let’s not forget the hangers-on in his party; they, too, await their share from his coffers.

Little wonder, then, that Pacquiao has waffled on his departure from the boxing scene. After a bout, he’s spent and all too ready to call it a career. He has also just seen his bank account get substantially bigger, and so he foresees a future with his cup full. After a while, however, the pains subside and his need to earn more megabucks becomes pronounced anew; this is when he is again enjoined to head back inside the ropes. It’s a merry-go-round that has no one quarter winning. Not him, and not the people he’s supposed to serve.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.