The boxing great Manny Pacquiao says he expects to defeat the American Brandon Rios in Macau later this month, but insists if he did lose he would not retire.
The 34-year-old Filipino, once regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, fights on November 24 in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory as he bids to break a losing streak and keep his boxing legacy intact.
“It’s one of the most important fights of my career because I want to show my fans and the world that I can still compete at a high level with elite boxers,” Pacquiao said.
A former champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, Pacquiao – who turns 35 in December – is seeking to come back from two consecutive defeats which has prompted speculation his best days are behind him.
His seven-year, 15-fight winning streak came to an end in June last year with a controversial split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley.
It was followed six months later by a sixth-round knockout defeat at the hands of his top rival, the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez.
Pacquiao insisted the losses have not affected him psychologically, and said he did not contemplate being defeated by Rios. “I am expecting to win this fight,” he said of the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title bout.
“It’s a really important fight for me in my boxing career because I lost the last two,” he added, pledging an “aggressive” strategy.
The Philippines boxing hero-turned-congressman insisted he felt “no extra pressure following the two losses”.
“It doesn’t affect me. As far as boxing is concerned sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
Pacquiao’s sporting achievements have made him a national hero, turning him into one of the highest-paid sportsmen in the world, a show-business celebrity and, in 2010, a member of his country’s legislature.
He is now a second-term congressman with ambitions of eventually becoming president, and critics have questioned whether his diminishing prowess in the ring was because he had become distracted by his many other endeavours.
Family, friends and media commentators called on him to retire following his defeat to Marquez, whose hammer blow at the end of the sixth round sent the Filipino crashing to the canvas.
But Pacquiao, whose record stands at 54-5-2, with 38 knockouts, said he had the desire to continue, and losing to the 27-year-old Rios would not change that.
“I feel comfortable and confident about going on to win this fight,” he said. “I am not looking to retire if I lose this fight.
“My motivation is that boxing is in my blood. I enjoy it and I like to entertain my fans worldwide.”
The bout will be staged at Macau’s Venetian casino resort and is billed by promoters as “The Clash in Cotai”.
It will be Pacquiao’s first fight outside the United States since 2006.
It is due to take place on the Sunday morning, ensuring a prime-time Saturday night audience in the US.