Interview: Manny Pacquiao

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As one of the biggest names in boxing history prepares to take on Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios at The Clash in Cotai, Matt Fleming sits down with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao to talk boxing, politics and why MMA is just ‘too brutal’

There are good boxers and there are great boxers. And then there are true legends. Manny Pacquiao is one of these star-studded names – a category reserved for the Alis and the Tysons of this world. The 34-year-old Filipino hero is the only champion to win world titles in eight different weight divisions in boxing history. He’s also the second-highest paid athlete in the world. And he’s the face of the Philippines – an influential politician in his home country, flying the nation’s flag proudly across the globe.

With his career on a bit of a downward spiral of late, particularly after being beaten in his last two outings, the Pacman’s upcoming bout at The Venetian Macao’s Clash in Cotai on November 24 is a must-win. If he fails, it could spell the end of Manny’s boxing career. When the star sits down with Time Out Hong Kong in Macau, however, he’s more than just a little upbeat about his future…

Good to meet you, Manny. So, you’re facing Brandon Rios at the Clash in Cotai in November. How important is it to you that
you win that fight?
It’s very important to me to win the fight because I lost the last two fights…  

But what is it about this fight that makes it…
Not only to win, but an impressive win.

So what’s been going wrong?
Nothing has been wrong. Though I did not get the decision from the judges. I felt I won the fight with Tim Bradley as did all the media covering it, my trainer Freddie Roach and the millions of fans who watched it. I was the aggressor throughout the fight and when he was hurt he decided to run from me. It may be officially recorded as a loss – and I accept that – but nothing went wrong in terms of my performance. Regarding Marquez, one thing did go wrong – I left my chin wide open. I was very careless. I came into that fight in the best condition I had been in in many, many years. I trained hard. I studied hard. I was ready. I was winning the fight and I sensed I had him ready to go and I went for the knockout. I was careless when I should have been patient. I made a mistake and Marquez was able to land the perfect punch. That’s boxing and that’s why it’s so exciting because anything can happen at any time. 

We’re rooting for you in this bout. What sort of performance are you going to give your fans?
I fight to please the fans. I want them to leave the arena at the end of the night thinking they were entertained and excited about coming back for my next fight. I’m in my longest training camp at the moment – three months. The first six weeks are dedicated to conditioning and the last six are focused on boxing. I’m sparring with the best fighters to prepare myself for Brandon Rios. He hits hard and he is younger than me. He fights straight ahead, as do I, so the fans can expect to see an explosive fight with a lot of action. I am looking forward to putting on a great show. 

If you don’t win, what will it mean for you?
I never consider the possibility of losing. It is a negative that I can’t allow in my training. I train to win. I fight to win.

Let’s turn to Macau. What do you think of Macau as it attempts to become a centre of boxing in Asia? 
It’s good because it’s good to market boxing in China, because China has a 1.4billion population – and also not only in China but the whole of Asia, so it’s not far for people to travel to watch it live. 

What do you like about Macau?
Macau is like Las Vegas. I believe that if we continue this promotion in Macau, it will be like Vegas or more…

More? So it could become bigger? Boxing basically shifts across the world over here? 
I believe that because if we encourage people, especially in China, it will have a big impact on
them to watch boxing. 
 

Mixed martial arts is big here too. Do you see MMA as a threat to the future of boxing in Asia or do you see that it would actually help promote boxing here? 
It will help boxing in Asia to do the promotion here. It will encourage the boxers, you know, to focus on their career and training. 

Are you a fan of MMA?
MMA? No! Only boxing! [Laughs] For me, MMA is good but I think it’s too dangerous for people, because for me it’s too brutal. Some people like boxing, some people like MMA! 

You’re purportedly the second-highest paid athlete in the world. Coming from the Philippines, with the background that you have, how has this affected Manny Pacquaio?
It helped a lot, you know, earning money from boxing – especially with my family, giving them shelter, giving them businesses to start. Helping people, helping my relatives. I feel comfortable and happy helping people, especially when I help my relatives.

What sort of things do you want to do later on in your career that would help people?
I have a lot of programmes in the Philippines that can help people, like housing – giving affordable housing to people who don’t have housing. I entered politics because I want to reduce poverty in the Philippines. Especially in my province, I’m giving them sheltered housing… I have a programme that can help them. A sustainable programme giving them sustainable livelihoods so they earn money every day. And human trafficking. We have accomplished a lot, fighting that since we started.

Back to boxing… obviously you’re now later on in your career. How long do you think you’ve got left as a boxer?
Two to three years. And then I go full time into politics. 

And who would you prefer to be your last opponent?
What people want! 

But who? Who does Manny want?
The fight people ask me the most about is Floyd Mayweather Jr. I think it would be a good fight and it certainly seems to be the fight fans want most. But it takes two to make a fight and right now Floyd seems more interested in anything but fighting me.   

Okay – so, the Philippines. Hongkongers have been blacklisted by their government from travelling there after a bus shooting a few years back. What do you think of this? 
It’s not dangerous to come to the Philippines. It just… er… happened, the incident, you know. We cannot predict what happened, it’s not intentional. 

What would you say to a Hongkonger now who wants to come to the Philippines?
What I would say is that the Philippines is very peaceful now…. you know, there are quite a lot of tourist destinations in the Philippines they can see. Yeah, come to the Philippines! You know, Filipino people are very hospitable and caring.

Thank you, Manny. So, to end, I want to feel what a Pacman punch is really like. Is there any chance you could punch me? Go on!
Just on the arm…

Sure! [Cue hilarity, an end to our interview and the rest of the day spent in pain. It was only a playful punch…  

The Clash in Cotai The Venetian Macao, CotaiArena, Sun Nov 24, 8am. Tickets: $9,880-$880; venetianmacao.com/manny.

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