On a typical day, Manny Pacquiao wakes up well before dawn to run several miles. Afterward comes a workout with his strength and conditioning coach. Then, following a shower, the only eight-division champion in boxing history puts on a dress shirt, suit and tie for his day job as a first-term senator in his native Philippines.
Since being elected to office, Pacquiao, 37, has never missed a senate session, citing what he refers to as his calling to assist impoverished Filipinos. Pacquiao, for instance, is beloved for handing out money to the less fortunate in the Philippines and recently posted on his Facebook page that he had fully funded a project to build 1,000 free houses for the homeless in the country’s Sarangani province.
But with the Filipino senate in recess, Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 knockouts) has been able to devote all of his attention of late to his next opponent, Jessie Vargas, whose World Boxing Organization welterweight championship will be at stake on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It’s Pacquiao’s first fight since April 9, when he soundly beat Timothy Bradley in the culmination of their trilogy.
At the time, the Boxing Writers Association of America’s reigning fighter of the decade announced he would be retiring from the sport to concentrate on politics. He’s coming out of retirement now, according to longtime promoter Bob Arum, in part for a payday that will be used to provide additional financial assistance to Filipinos in need.
Then there’s reclaiming the belt from Vargas that formerly belonged to him.
“Boxing is my passion, and I’m not done yet in boxing,” Pacquiao said during a workout for the media in Los Angeles last week. “I just want to make history in my first fight since I was elected as a senator. My motivation is to get the title. That’s why I continue my career. It’s history when you get a get a title and you’re a senator. I still feel the hunger in my heart and my mind.”
Pacquiao has said he plans to continue fighting beyond this weekend and even mentioned the possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their first and only bout shattered pay-per-view sales records and earned Pacquiao a reported $150 million or so in prize money. Pacquiao lost via unanimous decision and subsequently revealed he fought with a right shoulder injury.
The undefeated Mayweather retired after beating Andre Berto in September 2015 to run his record to 49-0, matching legendary heavyweight Rocky Marciano’s mark, set from 1947 to ’55.
“Manny’s been a lot more explosive. He’s looking sharp,” said trainer Freddie Roach, who altered his schedule to work with Pacquiao during training camp in the Philippines and then over the past several weeks in Los Angeles. “You know the people that tell me he’s washed up or slowing down? He has not lost a bit of his speed and power.
“I think he’s hitting harder now than he ever did in his life.”
In addition to Mayweather, another potential opponent for Pacquiao, according to Arum, is Terence Crawford, the unified junior welterweight world champion. Crawford, the 2014 fighter of the year, was among the opponents Pacquiao and his camp considered this time before settling on Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs).
Roach has said Pacquiao’s team picked Vargas, 27, because he would be a less demanding opponent than Crawford.
The only loss of Vargas’s career came against Bradley, a former two-division champion, in June 2015. That bout ended in controversy when, after Vargas landed a jarring blow, referee Pat Russell stepped between the fighters in the closing seconds of the final round and began waving his hands as if calling for a stoppage. Russell later admitted he mistakenly thought the round had ended.
“I can’t think of a better time for Jessie Vargas,” said Arum, the co-founder and chairman of Top Rank Boxing. “He’s 10 years younger [than Pacquiao]. He’s peaking. He’s becoming a real fighter that we knew he was capable of being, a real good puncher. Whether that’s still enough to beat Manny Pacquiao, I don’t know. That’s what we’ll see Nov. 5, but this is the best time for Vargas to fight Manny Pacquiao.”