The Filipino fight king Manny Pacquiao's quest to conquer the political ring, as well as the boxing kind, could see him take a prolonged break from the squared circle after his bout with Joshua Clottey in Dallas on March 13. Pacquiao, in Hollywood training for the first defence of his WBO welterweight title he won in such convincing fashion from Miguel Cotto last November, is also running for a congressional seat in his native Philippines.
His philanthropy has already cemented his place in his homeland not just as a sporting icon, but as an astute businessman and movie star and he is looking to put his popularity to good use by entering into the world of politics. Despite the seven-weight champion's seemingly invincible persona, it is hard to imagine that he will be able to balance a career in politics with the months of training it takes to condition himself for a fight against someone of Clottey's ilk.
That is of course unless you are the "Pac Man". "I don't know [if I will stop], but I can still fight," said Pacquiao, 31. "Boxing is different than politics. Politics is more in service. "I want to be a good public servant. I want to help people." He could do worse than seek the advice of his Top Rank promoter, Bob Arum, who understands the pressure of public service more than most after working as a lawyer in the Justice Department during the Kennedy admini- stration.
But Pacquiao's determination to join Congress at the height of his athletic career is perplexing to the man who has helped shepherd Pacquiao from obscurity. "I can't figure it out," Arum said of "Pambansang Kamao", which translates to "National Fist". "I tried very lightly to dissuade him this time. I know people around him have tried also. He's determined to do it." If Pacquiao is elected this spring, his trainer Freddie Roach has come to terms with the possibility that the combination of Pacquiao's political responsibilities and his struggle to land a desired showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr could keep him out of the ring for a while - perhaps even permanently.
"It could be our last fight, sure," Roach confirmed. "I don't think it will, but it could definitely work out that way." Pacquiao, who has won 50 of his 55 bouts, 38 by a knockout, is generally regarded as one of the world's top pound-for-pound fighters, although a clash with Mayweather would undoubtedly settle that dispute. He will meet Clottey, who has won 35 of his 39 bouts that also includes three defeats, at Cowboys Stadium.
Pacquiao's pulling power extends beyond the shores of the Philippines and a huge crowd is expected. The love affair comes largely from the man's charitable nature, having given away millions of his own money to various charities. He failed in an attempt to win a congressional seat in May 2007, losing by a lopsided margin. His latest run - which will be decided in the Philippines' general election on May 10 - has a much better chance of succeeding, according to Arum.
"He's lived in the US and he's seen how people live here, and the relative affluence here," Arum said. "As a caring individual, that has to upset him. He genuinely wants to make a difference in those people's lives, and I guess he thinks politics is how to do that." @Email:email@example.com