Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao’s farewell party officially began on Tuesday amid media, fans and his Top Rank promotional team for the past decade, at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
It was a quasi-send off for the Filipino left-handed slinger who dominated the lighter weights and eventually won titles in eight weight classes beginning in 1998.
Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) faces WBO welterweight titlist Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) for the third time on April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Retirement is on his mind but the popular prizefighter refused to absolutely nail it down as a retirement fight.
“Maybe this is our last time to see each other,” said Pacquiao during the press conference. “I want to give thanks for all your support. Without you guys we’re not here.”
Arum seemed to take statements like that as a hint that one more fight may be in store.
“I can’t come to grips it would be the last time,” said Arum with a chuckle. “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.”
Slightly lost in the shuffle was Bradley of Palm Springs who seemed to understand the emotional attachment of the situation and took the high road. The welterweight champion was short and brief about the situation and let the farewell party continue.
“All I can tell you, I think it’s going to be a great fight. I know he wants to win the fight really badly,” said Bradley.
Retirement definitely seems to be on Pacman’s mind especially as he strives to win a senate seat in the Philippines. So with that in mind it’s time to take a look back at Pacquiao’s arrival to California so many years ago.
It was 2001 when Pacquiao was busy going through his boxing stations of hitting the bags, warm up exercises and sparring in the ring at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Freddie Roach was eager to tell this journalist about the speedy southpaw.
“He can really crack,” said Roach who does not exaggerate like so many other trainers.
It was one of the real truths of Pacman whose speed overshadowed his power in my estimation. Watching the Filipino southpaw spar with various boxers inside the gym was an eye-opening revelation. If a fighter could survive an all-out onslaught from Pacquiao while sparring it was seen as a merit of honor.
For a while only those who visited the Wild Card knew about Pacquiao. HBO Boxing already existed but they never visited gyms back then. So when Pacquiao was inserted to face IBF super bantamweight world titlist Lehlo Ledwaba on the under card of Oscar De La Hoya’s title fight with Javier Castillejo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it was the champion Ledwaba that was touted as a fighter to watch. Instead, Pacquiao demolished Ledwaba and took the title. He never looked back.
When Pacquiao decided to train in his home country to prepare for his defense against Emanuel Lucero in July 2003, he took Roach with him. The night of the fight that took place at LA’s historic Olympic Auditorium, Roach talked to me about his travels to the Philippines and the newness of it. He described the fanatical support, hot and humid weather and adulation heaped on all those who participated, including sparring partners, water boys and tag-alongs. The Philippines were still very new to him 13 years ago.
Now Roach is a recognizable hero in the island nation.
“I’m very excited about this event because this is Manny Pacquiao’s last fight,” Roach said with a hint of regret.
Roach has been the one constant in Pacman’s U.S. career. Many forget Top Rank was not the only promotional company involved with Pacquiao. There was Murad Muhammad, who first promoted Pacquiao in this country. Then there was Golden Boy Promotions and finally Top Rank after a brief time when each company had ties to Pacman simultaneously. Now it’s only Top Rank and Manny’s company. Roach has been with Pacquiao through all of the changes.
“Freddie’s not only my trainer but my brother, my family, he’s been very good to us and a very nice person,” said Pacquiao.
From the words spoken by Pacquiao it does truly seem like a goodbye scenario. But from the hesitations in all the parties involved, including Bradley, there does seem to be a window slightly opened.
Arum hopes so.
“As a fighter he has brought us great thrills, great excitement and great events. And always given us everything he has,” said Arum. “If it truly is his last, Manny, thank you; it’s been a great ride.”
HBO pay-per-view will televise the event. Tickets go on sale on Friday and begin at $150.