Could this be Manny's final fight?
LOS ANGELES -- The frantic ferocity of Manny Pacquiao's training camps at the stuffy Wild Card Gym clearly indicate he feels every fight could be his last.
This time around, Pacquiao knows he really might be done with boxing -- for a while at least.
Pacquiao is training in Hollywood for his March 13 fight against Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium while simultaneously running for a congressional seat in his native Philippines. It's the latest move in his exhaustive quest apparently to become all things to all people in a homeland that already has embraced him as a boxing champion, a commercial pitchman, a movie star, a singer and its most famous person.
But if he beats Clottey on March 13 and then gets elected eight weeks later, as many expect, how can he balance a burgeoning political career with the months of intense training necessary for a former flyweight to survive bigger opponents such as Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya and Clottey?
"I don't know, but I can still fight," the 31-year-old Pacquiao said Wednesday while getting his hands wrapped in a cramped back room. "Boxing is different than politics. Politics is more in service. ... I want to be a good public servant. I want to help people."
Promoter Bob Arum understands the lure of public service after working as a lawyer in the Justice Department during the Kennedy administration, but Pacquiao's determination to join Congress at the height of his athletic career is perplexing to the man who shepherded Pacquiao from obscurity.
"I can't figure it out," Arum said. "I tried very lightly to dissuade him this time. I know people around him have tried also. He's determined to do it."
If Pacquiao is elected this spring after his bout in Dallas, trainer Freddie Roach and Arum have come to terms with the possibility that the combination of Pacquiao's political responsibilities and his struggle to land a megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. could keep him out of the ring for a while -- perhaps permanently.
"It could be our last fight, sure," Roach said. "I don't think it will, but it could definitely work out that way."
Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs), generally considered the world's top pound-for-pound fighter, will meet Clottey (35-3, 21 KOs) at Cowboys Stadium in front of a huge crowd lured by Pacquiao's star power and reasonably priced tickets -- a bonus that particularly appeals to Pacquiao, who rose from abject poverty to the pinnacle of his sport.
Arum said Pacquiao feels deeply compelled to give back to his country for his good fortune. Even after giving away millions of his boxing winnings to charities, family, friends and strangers who stand outside his house in the Philippines waiting days to catch a glimpse of him, he seems to believe the best way is through elected office -- even if many of his Filipino fans apparently disagree.
He failed in an attempt to win a congressional seat in May 2007, losing by a lopsided margin. His latest run, which will be decided in the Philippines' general election on May 10, has a much better chance of succeeding, according to Arum and political observers.
"He's lived in the U.S., and he's seen how people live here, and the relative affluence here," Arum said. "As a caring individual, that has to upset him. He genuinely wants to make a difference in those people's lives, and I guess he thinks politics is how to do that."
Roach has risen along with Pacquiao to the top of his profession, but he would rather see his greatest fighter leave at his apex than on a decline. Roach also realizes a fighter of Pacquiao's stature has little to gain beyond money, unless he finds an opponent worthy of his skills.
"I did have a discussion with Manny about it," Roach said over the shouts of his brother, Pepper, ordering somebody to move a car that's blocking a spot in the Wild Card's minuscule parking lot. "We didn't come up with an answer. It's more about the opponents. If Mayweather beats (Sugar Shane) Mosley and then won't fight Manny, who else is there? (A third fight with) Juan Manuel Marquez? Maybe Edwin Valero? People really want to see Manny-Mayweather."
Mayweather and Pacquiao have tried to avoid talking about each other while preparing for their respective spring bouts, but the fight still is the favorite topic in every boxing conversation. Their negotiations fell apart over Mayweather's insistence on extra-stringent drug testing, a stance interpreted by Arum and others as a reluctance to take on Pacquiao.
Roach still wants to see the fight come together later this year. Indeed, Arum agrees Congressman Pacquiao still would be able to train, noting the Filipino legislative body meets in July and adjourns until the end of the year.
"If he gets elected, I'm sure he'll still get time off for training camp," Roach said. "The government shuts down when he fights anyway. The terrorists call a treaty and stop fighting. I think I could get him away for eight weeks."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press