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Manny Pacquiao retires but doesn’t close door on return to boxing

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao is seeking his fourth WBO welterweight title on Saturday.

(Isaac Brekken / Associated Press)

Manny Pacquiao has stepped into retirement alongside Floyd Mayweather Jr., so now comes the matter of waiting to see whether it represents the dawn of a new era in boxing or whether the temptations of their rematch, massive cash and their lifelong pursuits will prove irresistible.

“He is likely to just call it a day … right now, I’d say there’s a good chance he’s walking away … but would I be shocked if he said he wanted to fight again? No,” Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said Sunday of his prized fighter.

Pacquiao’s unanimous-decision victory over former two-division world champion Timothy Bradley Jr. on Saturday night at MGM Grand was a reminder of the skills that made him a record eight-division world champion and an uplifting response to his disappointing showing against Mayweather 11 months ago, caused in part by an aggravated training-camp shoulder injury he opted to fight with.

“The [right] shoulder looked good,” observed a member of Mayweather’s close group who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mayweather doesn’t like tipping his hand to the public about a pending bout until it’s signed.

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The left-hander flashed his old power, scoring a disputed seventh-round knockdown and then sending Bradley to the canvas again in the ninth by blasting him on the chin with his power hand. Bradley (33-2-1) had never been decked twice in one bout.

Bradley said he plans to fight again, healing at his new San Diego beach house, and saying he’ll let a decision to reunite with trainer and ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas “marinate” because of the cross-country demands of Atlas’ intense two-month training camp with the Coachella Valley fighter.

“It was good to see the old Manny Pacquiao,” his trainer, Freddie Roach, said at the post-fight news conference. “He was looking for the knockout. He hasn’t slowed down a bit. No signs of wear and tear. When I see Manny aggressive, that’s the best Manny Pacquiao.

“I saw him smile quite a bit. It wasn’t a complete comeback, but it was a good first step.”

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That said, Pacquiao (58-6-2) said the step he wants to take is away from the sport, declaring himself retired at age 37.

He departs Los Angeles for the Philippines on Tuesday, to a national election for a Senate seat in the Philippines on May 9. Polls before the fight had him in fifth place, with 12 spots available.

There’ll be time enough to pause boxing talk for now and discover if he wins the election, learning whether the commitments of the job will make fighting again possible.

So at his post-fight news conference, Pacquiao spoke like a politician.

“I’ve committed to my family that after this fight I will spend more time with them and focus to serve the people of the Philippines,” Pacquiao said. “That is my priority.”

Nick Giongco, a Manila Bulletin reporter assigned to the Pacquiao beat, said the fighter’s Senate opponents have made a campaign issue of his poor attendance record as a congressman.

“Whether he can handle the schedule of being in Manila for Senate work and train as a boxer? If he misses meetings, it better be for a damn good reason,” Giongco said. “The Filipino people understand, however, that the Mayweather fight is a damn good reason.”

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If Pacquiao is indeed departing — met by skepticism given the history of un-retirements in boxing — there were some indications he’s leaving at an appropriate time.

He landed just 20 total punches in the uninspired first three rounds, and his punching volume shrank from 63 per round in his 2012 fight against Bradley to 37 in the trilogy capping bout.

“He’s capable of a lot more fast combinations. He has room for improvement,” Roach said. “We’ve had a good 15 years. If he retired, I’ll be happy for him. He has something to fall back on.”

But Roach, who’s long told Pacquiao he’ll urge him to retire should he witness glaring signs of slippage, said no such discussion will happen after Saturday.

“His legs are good, his work ethic is great, he hasn’t missed a beat. … This may be the beginning of bringing back the old Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said. “I’d like to see him fight again.”

Pacquiao basically said cut him a break if he fell short of a dominating knockout win over a fighter who’s never been stopped, praising Bradley’s experience and resilience.

“If you ask me about my condition, my body … I’m still OK,” Pacquiao said. “I can still give a good fight. I worked hard in training. I feel OK. I like to fight, the way we prepare. I’m happy doing that.

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“My heart is 50/50. I love my family. Boxing is a really hard sport, very difficult. I might enjoy retired life or I may come back. Right now, my decision is to retire … I love to help people.”

Roach said a good choice for Pacquiao is unbeaten junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford, but what remains unknown is what the ultimate choice — Mayweather — is thinking.

Was the two-knockdown performance enough to stir the case that, with a healthy shoulder, Pacquiao could give Mayweather the fight everyone hoped for in the first place?

The new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas had Mayweather using a shovel at its groundbreaking two years ago, and his father/trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., said last week that the goal of repeating a Pacquiao victory in the massive venue to finish 50-0 could “persuade” his 39-year-old son to return.

“His father is speaking from the heart … he’s speaking common sense … but it has absolutely zippo influence on the son,” Arum said. “That doesn’t advance anything. It’s more of a hope than anything else.”

Yet, with so much money at play after Mayweather-Pacquiao I generated more than $600 million, with the fighters pocketing about $400 million among themselves, Arum said, “Money has always motivated Floyd, but I don’t know where Floyd’s head is, and I don’t think anybody truly does, including [his powerful manager Al] Haymon.”

Arum had a difficult time with Haymon during the first fight over negotiating the fight and a late ticket dispute, but he was conciliatory Sunday, saying, “Knowing the pitfalls, you negotiate to eliminate those pitfalls.”

Like Mayweather, however, Pacquiao says he’s done, so perhaps it’s time to shift focus to middleweight champions Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, along with Crawford and light-heavyweights Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, to find boxing’s best action now.

“Let me enjoy first a retired life,” Pacquiao said. “If you ask me [if I’ll] come back, I don’t know. I might be enjoying retired life. I’m not there [to retired life] yet, so I don’t know the feeling. I’ve committed to my family, I’ve made my decision already.”

With that, he left the stage, telling everyone, “Thank you everyone. Cheers.”

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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