MANNY Pacquiao wants the world to believe that his April 9 showdown with American Tim Bradley will be his final fight. At age 37, and after having logged 419 rounds spread in two decades, Pacquiao is really due, if not overdue, for retirement.
Then again, not a few are taking Pacquiao's swan song with the proverbial grain of salt. Even Pacquiao's own promoter, Bob Arum, is not keen on the idea of selling the third joust with Bradley as Pacquiao's farewell appearance. Arum, of course, stands to benefit the most because his contract with Pacquiao runs until 2017.
From where this writer sits, there are at least two reasons why Pacquiao might linger in the ring after the Bradley fight.
First, Pacquiao's retirement announcement did not strictly emanate from a fighter's mindset; he also uttered it from the standpoint of a politician seeking a seat in the Senate. The retirement angle makes for the ideal campaign pitch: Vote for Manny and he promises to work 24/7 in the Senate. Note that one of the criticisms against Pacquiao as a congressman is that he was hardly present in the august hall.
Pacquiao is now telling registered voters that he intends to work full-time as a senator if elected. The proposition actually cheapens further the political landscape in the country, but some gullible fans/voters might buy it. The choice of April 9, Araw ng Kagitingan, as the fight date gives the proposition that dramatic tone. Oh, lest we forget, by announcing that he is retiring, Pacquiao also hopes it will boost ticket sales for the Bradley fight. Like hitting two birds with one stone, indeed.
Second, the choice of Bradley as a farewell foe does not make for an ideal exit plan. Pacquiao himself admitted that he was negotiating, if not hoping, that his final fight would be against American Floyd Mayweather Jr. A rematch with Floyd gives Pacquiao the complete retirement package in terms of a lifetime pension and a chance to avenge the disappointing loss he suffered last May. The Bradley fight does not offer anything other than a chance for Pacquiao to beat up a foe he had conquered twice already (Manny was clearly robbed of a win in the first fight). There are at least two boxers who can give Pacquiao that genuine fistic adieu: Mayweather Jr. or Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez. Mayweather gets the nod because of the massive financial and historical dividends.
Of course, Bradley can simply spoil everything and seal Pacquiao's retirement in the most unsavory manner by conclusively beating the Pacman. Bradley will enter the fight an underdog, but you also have to like his chances because there is no telling Pacquiao's physical and mental condition come fight time. Is the shoulder fully healed? Will Pacquiao's mental focus be there considering that the fight will take place with the campaign in full swing? Bradley will test the shoulder and will be on the lookout for that moment when Pacquiao mentally drifts in the hope of scoring an upset.
From where this writer sits, Pacquiao should retire after Bradley regardless of the outcome. But as they say in boxing, when it comes to calling it a day in boxing, sadly the fighter is the last to know.