LAS VEGAS — On the eve of his fourth bout against arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez, which is scheduled for Saturday night at the MGM Grand, Manny Pacquiao said he would still consider matches with unbeaten fighters such as junior welterweight slugger Brandon Rios and Floyd Mayweather Jr., or even a rematch with Tim Bradley under the right circumstances before calling it quits.
But when Pacquiao finally does retire, the eight-division titlewinner told a cluster or reporters during a nearly 30-minute interview session on Tuesday that he will never return to the ring.
“Right now, my thinking is that if I retire, I’m not going back into boxing,” said Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 knockouts), who will turn 34 on Dec. 17. “I’m not going to be like some other fighters that retire and come back like that. When I decide to retire, then there will be no more coming back to boxing.”
Pacquiao was dethroned in June as WBO welterweight beltholder by Bradley’s split-decision, which ended his 15-bout winning streak that had included nine knockouts.
Back in November of last year, Pacquiao escaped with a disputed majority decision over Marquez, with whom he had already battled through a draw and a split-decision victory.
Pacquiao had last suffered defeat against Erik Morales by unanimous decision in March of 2005, after which his run included twice stopping Morales, knocking out Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, and decisioning Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Marco Antonio Barrera, whom he also had knocked out in 2003.
Although he insists that he is focused on defeating the 39-year-old Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs), Pacquiao does not believe that his career will be defined, win or lose, by what happens in Saturday night’s HBO Pay Per View-televised clash.
“Regardless of what happens with this fight, I think [his legacy] will stay positive. What I have done in boxing I think that we will never forget,” said Pacquiao, whose victory over Margarito earned him the WBC’s since-vacated junior middleweight belt.
“I have done a lot in boxing, and I’m already satisfied with that. What I’m trying to do is to maintain that exciting fight and to give it to the people.”
The era’s most coveted fight is that between Pacquiao and Mayweather, whose negotiations have failed over the notions of drug testing and money.
Pacquiao claims that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make the fight Mayweather, even as he won’t fret if it never happens, going as far as saying that he would be willing to take the lower half of a 45-55 split.
“That’s a big fight that the fans are waiting for, and even you guys. Are you waiting for that fight? The fans are really waiting to see that fight. And that’s why I said I’m okay with 45-55 or whatever you want, just to make the fight happen,” said Pacquiao.
“If you want drug testing in the rules, or whatever you want, it’s okay. No problem.I think I already announced everything that they want. Just waiting for the answer. It’s up to him.”
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum promotes both Pacquiao and Rios (31-0-1, 23 KOs), a hard-punching 26-year-old who is coming off October’s seventh-round stoppage of previously unbeaten junior welterweight rival Mike Alvarado.
“Like I said, as long as there are no problems, there are a lot of opponents out there,” said Pacquiao, in response to questions about Rios. “There are other potential opponents rising up right now. There are many. I’m willing to fight anybody. There’s a lot.”
Instead of a rematch with Bradley, Pacquiao chose to face Marquez, who still believes himself to be the victor in all three bouts regardless of the final decisions.
“This will be the last time we fight Marquez. We’re going to knock him out. End of story. We’ve had three close fights, Manny’s always been the aggressor,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach.
“Manny’s always won the close rounds, and we’re going to win the close rounds, and counter-punching is always on the other end of that for Marquez. It could be that way again, and I’d be satisfied with a decision win like that because I feel as if Manny’s won all three fights. I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
Although Bradley is also promoted by Top Rank, Pacquiao and Roach say they are less inclined to face him again because they do not believe they lost the fight, and they claim that Bradley is not a big draw.
“[Bradley] would have to win a big fight, maybe against somebody like Floyd or something,” said Roach. “We can get up for any fight, but that was an unusual case there because we don’t feel like we lost that fight, so we don’t dwell on it.”
PACQUIAO: BRADLEY ‘INJURED HIS FEET BECAUSE HE’S RUNNING’
Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) claimed that he was hobbled by ligament damage in both feet suffered early in the fight against Pacquiao, which limited his movement.
But Pacquiao had an answer for that.
“He injured his feet because he’s running,” said Pacquiao, implying that he did not score the knockout because Bradley did not stand toe-to-toe. “For the first time in his career, he’s running and running. If he didn’t start running… but no disrespect. I like that guy.”
Pacquiao will earn a base purse of $8,595,000 to $3 million for Marquez, according to Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“We haven’t knocked out anybody lately and we got a loss in our last fight,” said Roach. “So we’re taking a cut in pay.”
PACQUIAO: MIGUEL COTTO ‘LOST THE FIGHT’ TO AUSTIN TROUT
Having scored a 12th-round knockout victory which dethroned Cotto as WBO welterweight beltholder in November of 2009, Pacquiao watched, in earnest, as Cotto lost by unanimous decision to junior middleweight beltholder Austin Trout last Saturday.
“I thought he lost the fight, but I saw Cotto as being different than before our fight. This time, he was a little bit slow and the punches were not really hard,” said Pacquiao. “I was cheering for Cotto in that fight, just to be honest, you know? I was cheering for Cotto in that fight, but I thought that he lost the fight.”
Adding intrigue are the facts that Pacquiao-Marquez IV will be officiated by Kenny Bayless, who refereed Pacquiao-Marquez II, with the judges being Adelaide Byrd of Las Vegas, Steve Weisfeld of New Jersey and John Keane of England.
In addition, Byrd and Weisfeld were two of the three judges for the Trout-Cotto at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where Cotto is an overwhelming fan favorite and had never lost.
Byrd scored it for Trout, 119-109, while Weisfeld and Sam Poturaj both had it 117-111, a fact that Arum says bodes well for Pacquiao-Marquez IV.
“Weisfeld wasn’t swayed by the crowd, and neither was Adalaide Byrd,” said Arum. “I think that they are excellent judges.”
PACQUIAO PRAYS FOR RELIEF IN HIS NATIVE PHILIPPINES
In October of 2009, Pacquiao interrupted his training while preparing for Cotto to assist the recovery in his home country the Philippines.
Pacquiao made a substantial financial donation and drove from his training camp in Baguio City to an area that had been left devastated after Typhoon Ketsanas poured a month of rain on Manila in just one day and left an estimated 300 dead.
But as current reports have the toll reaching as many as 270 as a result of a Typhoon Bopha, Pacquiao said he can only pray for the well-being of his countrymen.
“I’m praying. Only God can stop a storm, and what I can do is pray to God that everybody’s going to be fine,” said Pacquiao. “In my heart, all that I can do is pray. Pray to God, because I can do nothing from here in the United States.”
PACQUIAO MUM ON PED SUSPICIONS AGAINST MARQUEZ
Marquez has said that he would be willing to undergo random drug testing in order to quell speculation that he might be on steroids, as long as Pacquiao was willing to as well.
Marquez sparked controversy and came under scrutiny for hiring controversial strength guru Angel Hernandez for his last fight against Pacquiao, since Hernandez had been widely known to have a history of being involved in performance-enhancing activities.
A graduate of Texas A&M’s exercise science program, Hernandez was known as Angel Heredia, in May of 2008 when he testified in a San Francisco Court that he supplied former track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with illegal substances.
Hernandez never was convicted of any crimes, although he admitted to giving the blood-booster EPO, growth hormone and insulin to Jones in 2000 at the request of her then-coach Trevor Graham, who was on trial. Heredia also sold banned substances to Montgomery.
Hernandez was hired by Marquez in order to achieve better results than he did in his welterweight debut, a one-sided unanimous decision loss to Mayweather in September of 2009, and has insisted that his state-of-the-art techniques helped Marquez to gain strength and weight for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao had been similarly targeted by Mayweather, his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and his uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather before reaching an out-of-court settlement resolving Pacquiao’s Las Vegas-based defamation lawsuit.
“Honestly, I don’t want to comment about that,” said Pacquiao. “My mind is really focused on the fight on Saturday, and I want to be 100 percent focused in my mind, only on the fight until Saturday.”
Asked if he thought Marquez was dirty, Pacquiao appeared to be vague in his response.
“I want to put that out of my mind and give him credit for working hard and, and if you work hard, it’s not about the size,” said Pacquiao. “This is not about the size. I’ve been fighting the bigger guys, guys bigger than me, so it’s about how you punch in the ring.”
PACQUIAO RESERVES JUDGEMENT ON OFFICIALS
Pacquiao said he is unconcerned about the presence of Byrd and Weisfeld.
“You know, I have no doubt about the judges and the officials. I have trust in them. leave it to them,” said Pacquiao.
“We respect what they’re doing, and we believe that there are good judges. They know what they’re doing. They’re excellent judges.”
PACQUIAO, MARQUEZ HAVE FLOORED THEIR SPARRING PARTNERS
Marquez appears to have displayed increased power during at least one sparring session in which he dropped his opponent with a perfectly placed counter-right hand during an exchange.
But Roach says Pacquiao has similarly leveled his practice rivals, not just once, but on three separate occasions.
“We had a great training camp, and I think Manny has the fire back up under him that he used to have. He’s not so compassionate in sparring this time. The mittwork is really hard. He’s had four knockdowns in training camps this time,” said Roach.
“We haven’t had knockdowns in camp since the Cotto fight, I don’t believe. So Manny’s got a good fire under him and he’s focused and he’s doing well. We had a guy in from Sweden who wanted to spar, we let him spar, and we knocked him down, and he didn’t come back the next day. He knocked down one guy twice, so, three guys.”
PACQUIAO PULLS PUNCHES ON CHARLES BARKLEY, REGGIE MILLER
On Monday, Pacquiao sparred and shot baskets with former NBA stars Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller as part of a production by Turner Sports and HBO Sports called Charles and Reggie: Toe to Toe with Manny Pacquiao, a 30-minute show to be televised on TNT on Thursday.
The broadcast will follow the network’s NBA coverage and will include Barkley and Miller visiting Pacquiao at The Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, Calif., where he prepared with Roach for Marquez.
The Pacquiao footage will follow TNT’s NBA coverage of the Miami Heat playing host to the New York Knicks at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the Dallas Mavericks visiting the Phoenix Suns at 10:30 p.m.
Pacquiao chuckled when asked about whether or not either of the players could throw a punch.
“There’s no fighting in basketball,” said Pacquiao. “Only in hockey games. The hockey players should practice in boxing so they know how to punch.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com