Boxing: Manny Pacquiao vs McGregor, Mayweather then presidency: Why it just might happen

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It is almost certain that Manny Pacquiao’s biggest fight of 2022 will be for the presidency of the Philippines.

The 42-year-old has been a senator in his home country since 2016. While serving office, he has defended the WBO welterweight title against Jesse Vargas, lost it to Jeff Horn in a defeat that, we thought, signalled the end of his career, only to win the WBA version and see off challenges from elite names like Adrian Broner and Keith Thurman.

Still, as that boxing sage, Rocky Balboa once said: “Time takes out everybody. It is undefeated.”

In the past six months, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach and former promoter Bob Arum have revealed he told them he has only a couple of fights left before stepping out of the ring and on to the campaign trail.

So who should he fight? And, more importantly, who will he fight? First things first, Pacquiao is a living, fighting legend.

He is the only eight-weight world champion in boxing history and picked up his first global title way back in December 1998 down at flyweight, that is 112lb. His name, record and recent successes have made him a sought-after opponent by the two kings up at 147lb – Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

Frankly, they should be fighting each other, but instead, their risk-versus-reward calculations both concluded Pacquiao was a better option. However, this did not account for ‘Pacman’ undertaking the same sort of computation. That is why he is close to a deal to fight Conor McGregor in another boxing-UFC crossover bout.

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The Irishman has a match with Dustin Poirier in the Octagon on January 23. If he comes through unscathed and cannot entice Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement, then the odds will shorten for a fight that media reports have valued at around $250m. McGregor was talking about the possibility before his UFC fight with Donald Cerrone in January 2020.

Since then, Pacquiao has signed with Audie Attar’s Paradigm SM, long-time representatives of McGregor, so a fight would seem both lucrative and easy to make.

But let’s throw this forward and speculate a little.

With a record of 62 wins, seven defeats and two draws, Pacquiao has paid his dues to boxing many times over. He has fought the best, jumped weight divisions, unified belts and come back from defeats. He owes no one and has always offered the fans value. It will be a harsh judge that criticises him for a couple of mega bouts that serve his pension pot more than his prestige at this stage of his career.

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McGregor’s first and last boxing contest so far was against Floyd Mayweather in 2017. It brought in an estimated 4.3m pay-per-view buys, yielding $600m. The only fight ever to top that was Pacquiao vs Mayweather, which sold 4.6m two years earlier. That should have been an era-defining bout, but it came three years too late and failed to ignite. Mayweather boxed skilfully, but without releasing the safety catch and closed out a comprehensive points victory.

Since then, he has fought competitively only twice, with the last bout coming against McGregor in August 2017. He spanked a Japanese kickboxer on New Year’s Eve 2018 and hopefully will embarrass YouTuber Logan Paul when they fight in February. Despite the paydays of these otherwise pointless exhibition bouts, he has flirted with a proper comeback and, remember, he is only one year older than Pacquiao at 43.

Revenge would entice Pacquiao into a career-ending mega-fight, while ‘Money’ Mayweather’s incentive is obvious. He will be acutely aware that an eight-round, barely competitive bout between two fiftysomethings Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Junior sold 1.6m pay-per-view buys, the best of any combat sport event in 2020, generating $80m in process.

Bouts against a UFC fighter and a retired legend in 2021 would not please the purists as Pacquiao is an active, legitimate world champion, but, in many ways, it would be a fitting farewell for a true Filipino legend.

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Oh, and of course, should Pacquaio win there would have to be a rubber match.

Becoming the first sitting president to fight professionally, let alone for a world title? Participating in another ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ with some of the proceeds going to the Filipino people? That would be one hell of an inauguration and sound the final bell for one of the best boxers the squared ring has ever seen.

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