Manny Pacquiao claims his fight against Timothy Bradley on Saturday night was the last of his career, but not everyone is convinced the former eight-division champion won’t return to the ring one day. Pacquiao acknowledged that he isn’t completely ready to retire, and some of those close to him think his career may continue.
Pacquiao defeated Bradley in a major pay-per-view event, improving his career record to 58-6-2, and perhaps closing out an illustrious 21-year career that included victories over some of boxing's biggest names. As a two-term congressman in the Philippines, Pacquiao plans to focus on his political career as he runs for one of 12 vacant senatorial seats in the May 9 election.
But Pacquiao's charitable contributions from his lucrative boxing career have been important to his native land. His longtime promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, isn’t sure that Pacquiao is done fighting with so much money being left on the table.
"He's torn," Arum said via ESPN.com. "His wife wants him to retire. He's running for office, and if he wins, which he will, there will be tremendous responsibilities that go with it.
"He doesn't have money problems now, but of course he's going to have money problems if he's going to be building hospitals out of his own pocket instead of letting the [Philippines] government build the hospitals.”
A few months ago, Pacquiao reportedly donated $600,000 to build 150 housing units in the province for which he serves as a congressman. Late last year, Pacquiao claimed he signed “no less than 50 checks every day” for his charity work.
Earning a reported $20 million for Saturday’s fight, as well as a nine-figure payday for his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao isn’t exactly hurting for cash. But his desire to remain in the ring could also extend beyond financial aspects.
While his family and political aspirations could be pulling Pacquiao away from boxing, by his own account, he doesn't seem prepared to firmly call it quits. The 37-year-old proved he's still one of the sport's most gifted stars with the victory over Bradley.
"In my heart I'm 50-50,” Pacquiao said after Saturday’s fight. "But I love my family, and I won't hurt my family, my kids. I don't know, I might enjoy my retired life or I might want to come back. It's hard to say because I'm not there yet."
Boxing is littered with stars who retired, only to return to the ring for another foray. Muhammad Ali's "retirement" in 1978, was more like a hiatus, as he unsuccessfully defended his heavyweight title against Larry Holmes two years after defeating Leon Spinks. George Foreman hung up his gloves in 1977, but was back in the ring a decade later. After announcing his retirement in 1984, Sugar Ray Leonard took three years off before his high-profile comeback bout with Marvin Hagler. Mayweather is in the midst of his second retirement, having walked away from the sport for nearly two years after his fight with Ricky Hatton in 2007.
Like Pacquiao, some believe Mayweather’s most recent retirement may not last long, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the ring for another big payday. Pacquiao and Mayweather shattered pay-per-view records with their mega-fight in 2015, and PacMan might consider another shot at the undefeated boxer.
Though past his prime, Pacquiao is afforded opportunities down the road with his latest convincing victory. Bradley, a veteran boxer with a solid reputation, kept the fight competitive but Pacquiao provided the fireworks with two knockdowns. Now that Mayweather is seemingly done fighting, Pacquiao would be the welterweight division's biggest name if he sticks around. Amir Khan, Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Jessie Vargas and Danny Garcia could gain enough star power to lure Pacquiao out of "retirement" one day.
Pacquiao's political future, his philanthropic interests, and well as long-term health concerns will all likely determine his decision. He has no immediate need to provide a timetable for a return, and could theoretically take multiples years off before fighting again.
"You know, it's a difficult sport to quit, it's really, really hard to retire and I think he hasn't realized that yet," trainer Freddie Roach said. "But he will soon."