Manny Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, delivered this knee-buckling assessment for boxing fans already distraught by the failed Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. negotiations.
“This could be our last fight,” Roach said last week, as Pacquiao heads into the final days of training for his March 13 welterweight world title bout against Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas.
Roach’s sobering speculation about boxing’s biggest star is based on a chain of events that could occur.
Pacquiao, 31, is running for a congressional seat in his native Philippines. If elected in May, he’ll represent a community of about 400,000 people in need of improved healthcare, education and employment that the boxer himself was deprived of while being raised in poverty.
“I can see the help people need because I’ve been in that place,” Pacquiao said. “They’re poor, suffering, and needing help from the government. I know what they feel.”
His public-service duties will be tremendous, the boxer and his closest advisors know, and his election is more realistic than it was when he failed to win a national seat a few years ago.
Pacquiao, recently selected fighter of the decade, has won 11 consecutive fights against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez.
If he beats Clottey as expected, and if Mayweather defeats Shane Mosley on May 1, negotiations for a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout are likely to resume.
“I’ve talked to Manny about this. And if Mayweather doesn’t come back to the table in a mood to negotiate, the public demand won’t be there for any other fight,” Roach said. “So if Manny wins the election and likes politics, this [Clottey fight] could be it. And I have no problem with that. I don’t want Manny to be one of those guys who stays too long. It’s better to go out on top.
“That’s my goal for him, and I’ve told him, ‘Don’t do it like everyone else in the world.’ ”
Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) has fought only six fewer bouts than Muhammad Ali, and has boxed the same number of rounds (305) that “Sugar” Ray Leonard had when he retired.
Roach also serves as a reminder of the perils of an overextended boxing career, as he battles the effects of pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome.
Before a recent workout at Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood, Pacquiao expressed enthusiasm to fight Mayweather but noted the uncertainty over his future.
“It’s hard to say. Is this my last fight? We’ll see,” Pacquiao said. “One never knows. It’s still so early to be talking about this, but I do like the thought of going out on top.
“We did a lot in boxing, achieved a lot -- more than what we set out to do.”
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said he was “inclined to doubt” that his star fighter would walk away from the sport.
“Money,” Arum said, referring not only to the $12-million guaranteed payday Pacquiao will get for fighting Clottey, but similar purses he’d generate against other non-Mayweather foes. “That’s a fortune in the Philippines,” Arum said.
As Pacquiao prepares for Clottey, his workout regimen remains intense. His devotion to the sweet science is such that his sparring partner, Steve Forbes, describes Pacquiao as a human version of a “little Tasmanian devil.”
Yet, Pacquiao’s popularity gives him options to make a lucrative income outside the sport in acting, music and endorsements.
And the bitterness of the previous Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations lingers. The fighters argued over Mayweather’s insistence to adopt Olympic-style drug testing before the bout. Mayweather’s implications led Pacquiao to sue Mayweather for defamation.
“In my opinion, [Mayweather] wasn’t ready for the fight, he needed a reason to stop it,” Pacquiao said. “People say to me all the time they want to see Pacquiao-Mayweather, Mayweather-Pacquiao, whatever you want to call it, and I’m a fighter,” he adds, pounding over his heart with his right fist, “I’m concerned with giving the people what they want.
“Look, if I was bigger than him, I can understand him making this big deal. He’s bigger than me. We have a boxing commission in Nevada. They were fine with what we were doing [regarding testing]. The fighter doesn’t get to change the rules.”
On his Twitter page, Mayweather responded to a follower by asking, “Ask [Pacquiao] why he wouldn’t take a $25,000,000 blood test, because I honestly don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Mayweather’s promoter, Richard Schaefer, cast a dire tone about future contract talks.
“I’ve never said I believe I’ll be able to get this fight done the second time,” Schaefer said. “Each side feels strongly about its position, and I don’t see either side giving in. It could be one of those scenarios where you just move on. Some fights just don’t happen. That’s the way of life.”
And if Pacquiao retires from boxing?
“People wondered, ‘Who’s going to carry the mantle?’ after Oscar retired, and Manny Pacquiao popped up,” Schaefer said. “There’ll always be a next great star.”