MANNY Pacquiao isn't telegraphing his punches as far as his PBA plans are concerned, but the possibility of the boxing hero coaching and playing for Kia Motors isn’t far-fetched.
In his press conference on Monday where he was officially named head coach of the expansion team, the eight-division world champion said he is currently focusing on forming a competitive lineup for the car company when it makes its debut in the PBA's 40th season kicking off on October 18.
Like punches thrown by his opponents inside the boxing ring, questions about his plan to play in the pro league were deftly evaded by the 'Pacman' who sidestepped the issue.
“Saka na muna yung paglalaro ko," he told mediamen. "Gusto ko muna mag-focus sa kung paano ko ico-coach ang team at sa pagbuo nito.”
Team officials, however, were not as evasive, making it clear that Pacquiao hasn't abandoned his plans.
Kia Motors team manager and longtime Team Pacquiao business manager Eric Pineda told Spin.ph they are still not losing hope that the reigning WBO welterweight boxing champion can still play for the Columbian Autocar Corporation-owned franchise.
One major obstacle, however, stands in the way of Kia's plans since there is no way Pacquiao can play for the new team without going through the rookie draft, where other teams can throw a monkey wrench into Kia's plans by obtaining the rights to the ring icon.
However, Pineda revealed they will try to get an advice from league commissioner Chito Salud on how they can sway the board into allowing Pacquiao to play directly for Kia Motors in the face of the limited concessions given by the board to expansion teams.
“Yes, we will still talk to them. 'Yun lang naman ang hiling ni Manny eh. Ang makalaro para sa Kia, ang team na ico-coach rin niya,” said Pineda.
Even Columbian Autocar Corp. president Ginia Domingo said a formal advice might be transmitted to the PBA on their plan to personally seek help from the league on how they can directly acquire the playing rights of Pacquiao.
“Yun ang inaasikaso namin ngayon. Wala pa kaming formal advice to them,” the amiable automotive executive said.
Even Pacquiao’s younger brother, Bobby, bared it has been Pacquiao's lifelong dream to make it big in basketball.
“Lalaro 'yun. Kursunada talaga niya na lumaro, kaya lalaro 'yun,” said the former lightweight boxing contender. “Saka bata pa lang kami, talagang gustong gusto na ni Kuya Manny ang mag-basketball. Kung tutuusin nga, mas gusto pa niya maglaro kaysa mag-coach.”
Meanwhile, Salud said that while he respects the decision of Pacquiao to focus on forming a competitive roster, he would be glad to see Pacquiao add excitement to the league as a cager.
“Manny is an intelligent athlete, he knows what he wants and what he wants to achieve. Right now, we heard him clearly say that his interest and focus is as a head coach,” Salud said.
The league chieftain said Pacquiao has 10 more weeks to decide on his playing option since the PBA has set an August 13 deadline for the filing of draft applications for homegrown players.
“He is keeping his options as far as playing is concerned, but no final decision has been made,” Salud added. “In case he plans to apply for the draft, there is enough time.”
Chances are, Pacquiao may get his wish.
A member of the PBA board who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he feels the board can be swayed into keeping its hands off the boxing icon during the draft and allowing Pacquiao to suit up for Kia.
“Hindi na siguro nila kailangan humingi ng special concession. All they have to do siguro is talk to commissioner, who will in turn relay the message to the board,” said the PBA governor.
“Basta sumali lang sa draft si Manny, madali na mapapag-usapan naming board 'yun. Hindi naming siya gagalawin,” assured the popular team official. “Kanilang-kanila na si Manny.”