This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.
He is one of the greatest boxers of all time – a 10-time world champion and the only fighter to have ever won titles in eight different weight divisions. A three time “Boxer of the Year”, he was also named “Boxer of the Decade” for the 2000s by the WBC, WBO and the Boxing Writers Association of America. And in November, Manny Pacquiao will fight in China for the very first time when he takes on America’s Brandon Rios at the Venetian Macau. World Gaming CEO Andrew W Scott caught up with Pacquiao ahead of this historic fight to discuss his amazing career and his subsequent move into politics in his home country of the Philippines.
Andrew W Scott: Manny Pacquiao, it’s an absolute pleasure to interview a superstar such as yourself – thank you for speaking to the readers of WGM. Tell us a little about your early years. It’s been well documented you grew up in poverty – how big an influence did this have on your life and career since? How much did these difficulties drive you to succeed?
Manny Pacquiao: It is true, we were very poor and that has had a profound influence on me. I did not have the luxury of having an amateur career to learn boxing. I needed the money to survive. I am the lone congressional representative of Sarangani province, one of the poorest in the Philippines. One of the reasons I was elected was because my constituents knew I had the same experiences they are currently enduring. I came from the dirt. I know how hard it is to succeed against such hardships.
Growing up in poverty has had a huge impact on my life and my career. I knew if I wanted to provide a better life for my family I needed to work harder than my opponent to win a fight. I knew I needed to work harder in the gym to be not just a better fighter but to be my best. It carries over into my life. My successes inside the ring do not belong to me exclusively, they belong to my country and my countrymen. I fight to bring glory and respect to the Philippines. They give me my strength and my purpose. I hope my achievements and popularity inside the ring can shine a positive light on the Philippines and Filipinos around the world.
AWS: You’ve won world titles in eight different weight divisions – something that has never been achieved before. What have been the main challenges for you in stepping up and down divisions over the years? Has it been hard to gain and lose weight and how does this affect you in the ring?
MP: Making weight has never been a big issue for me since moving up to junior featherweight (122 lbs) in 1999. Once in a while, until I moved up to lightweight (135 lbs) I would have to skip breakfast before a weigh-in, but that is minor. Now I walk around at the same weight I fight. I play a lot of basketball between training camps and that keeps me fit. Training camp should be for training, not losing weight. Because I work so hard in camp, my biggest issue is maintaining my weight. I burn so many calories, I need to drink protein shakes in addition to my meals. I consume 7,000 to 9,000 calories daily during training camp.
AWS: At 1.69m you’re not the tallest boxer in the ring. Did being a shorter man present challenges early in your boxing career? If so, how did you overcome them?
MP: Speed is a great equalizer. I work very hard on my speed in camp to neutralize my opponents’ size advantage, which usually includes a reach advantage. I also work on maintaining my stamina and endurance and increasing my power. Freddie Roach is my greatest weapon. He develops a specific strategy for each opponent I face in advance of training camp and we work on that every day.
AWS: You’re scheduled to fight in Macau in November which will be the first time you have ever fought in China. What made you decide to finally come to Macau?
MP: I am blessed to have fans all over the world and at this stage of my career I want to start bringing fights to them. Macau is a wonderful city and it offers so much culturally and economically. Since it is so close to the Philippines it seemed like a natural place for me to fight. I am very excited to be coming to Macau. I think it will elevate boxing’s global profile, too.
AWS: What can the fans expect from you against Brandon Rios?
MP: Brandon and I will bring out the best in each other. We both like to battle toe-to-toe and test each other’s power. It will be a very exciting fight. Both of us cannot wait to battle each other in November.
AWS: You have had 54 wins in your career. Which fight do you consider to be your best and why?
MP: That is a hard question to answer because so many of my victories have had a big significance on different parts of my career, but I think my victory over Oscar De La Hoya was my best. I had to move up two weight classes without a tune-up fight and I was a very big underdog. I worked so hard in that camp. It was difficult because I had to gain weight while training for not just a bigger opponent but the best fighter of his era. I was on another level that night. I was so fast. I took Oscar out of his game plan in the first round and never let him back in. Because Oscar gave me that opportunity my career went to the level I enjoy today.
AWS: You had five losses in your professional career. Which was the hardest to take and why?
MP: The loss to Erik Morales in 2005. I felt that I had let my country down. It was a good fight and Erik won it, but it was a hard loss to accept. But it did force Freddie and me to review my style and begin developing a new style that incorporated my jab more and made my right as strong as my left.
AWS: We recently interviewed George Foreman and he was adamant that we will one day see you fighting Floyd Mayweather. Do you think the Mayweather fight will ever happen? Is it still important to you or are you not too worried anymore?
MP: I hope the fight will happen but it is up to Floyd. Last year I even publicly offered to take 45 percent to his 55 percent of the split but he never responded. I think the fight still has importance because the fans want to see it. If it doesn’t happen I will not worry about it. I have accomplished everything I wanted as a fighter and more. I am very proud of my ring achievements.
AWS: How much longer do you see yourself fighting for?
MP: Perhaps two more years.
AWS: Let’s move on to your political career. How do you balance being a congressman and being a boxer? How much time do you spend doing each and is it difficult to be dedicated to both?
MP: It is difficult but not impossible. I only fight one or two times per year which allows me to dedicate more time to my congressional duties. It requires great discipline to balance both. I keep to a schedule. It’s the only way to give each its proper dedication of time.
AWS: Why did you decide that you wanted to be involved in politics?
MP: I wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to my people. I enjoy donating money and my boxing career has helped shine a light on my country, but my celebrity can only do so much for a cause or my country. I felt being a public servant allowed me the access to help out where it meant the most, as a legislator. I want to help my constituents at the source to help direct funding to them to improve their quality of life. Boxing is my passion but serving the people is my calling.
AWS: What do you see the future of the Philippines being? As a congressman, what specific areas do you see as the most important to focus on in the coming years? How do you go about forcing change where needed?
MP: The first thing I have learned as a Congressman is that you cannot force change. Congress is a great platform to bring wrongs and rights public, but if you want to accomplish anything you need to work together with opponents and allies alike. I want to build up tourism in the Philippines, get more jobs shifted from other countries to the Philippines and get more investment in the Philippines. The Philippines is a nation of dedicated and hard-working people. We have a lot to offer. Above all I want to put an end to human trafficking and the abuse of children.
AWS: What do you hope to achieve in politics in the future? Some have said you might be Vice-President or even President of the Philippines some day. What do you say to that?
MP: My focus is on being the best Congressman I can and fulfilling the mandate my constituents have given me.
(Not long after our interview, Manny responded “Why not?” to another journalist who asked if he could see himself as President someday. This was widely picked up in the press and for a short time speculation was rife that Manny was seriously considering a run for the Presidency of the Philippines. But Manny has since claimed he was misquoted and he was clear to WGM that for the present time his political focus is on his role as a Congressman).
AWS: What has been the single highlight of your career and why?
MP: Being re-elected to Congress was one of the biggest honors bestowed on me because it meant that my fellow countrymen believe in me and the job I am doing.
AWS: Any regrets in boxing or in life in general?
MP: I have been very blessed. I have no regrets.
AWS: What does the future hold for Manny Pacquiao?
MP: I look forward to beginning training camp and returning to the ring in November. A Congressman needs to stay in shape to fight the good fight.