Filipino authorities on Thursday certified their national election results, thereby making boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao one of the island nation's 24 senators. Filipinos elected 12 new senators on May 9, and Pacquiao finished seventh, with more than 16 million votes.
It signals the end of his legendary boxing career, which began as a child when he left home to fight to earn money for his destitute family.
He rose to unimaginable heights, winning world titles in a record eight weight classes and becoming one of the two most popular fighters in the world. He was involved in three of the 14 best-selling pay-per-views in boxing history and developed a loyal and passionate fan base.
Pacquiao, who ends his career with a 58-6-2 mark and 38 knockouts, turned professional in 1995, just a month after his 16th birthday, as a 106-pounder. He went on to win world titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight.
He never earned a sanctioning body title belt at featherweight, but he upset Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, at a time when Barrera held the linear featherweight championship. Barrera had dropped his sanctioning body titles before their bout and was billed as "The King of the Featherweights," at the time of his bout with Pacquiao.
Pacquiao released a statement Thursday in which he spoke of his vision for his six-year term in the Senate. He did not mention his boxing career, but he announced his retirement following an April 9 win over Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas.
His statement in full:
Several months ago, we mounted a campaign to heed the call for help from the poor and downtrodden Filipino masses. We went out and joined them in their homes and places of work, we listened to their longings and assured them that a new beginning is coming. Over the past week, we heard those same voices strongly during the recent national electoral process. The message was very clear: Filipinos want their government back in the hands of the ordinary people. They want a new set of leaders who would stand up for their aspirations and share their goals. For that reason alone, I accept the challenge with utmost humility and gratitude. For the millions of common folks who believe in my capacity to put into words what they cannot express; to champion the causes closest to their hearts; and to serve them in a higher and greater platform, you have just won a seat in the Senate. My dearest kababayans, the victory is really yours. I want to reiterate what I have been telling my countrymen from the mountain ranges in Luzon, to the coastal towns of Visayas, to the riverside settlements of Mindanao: I will not let you down. I will not steal from you. I will not fail you. Rest assured I do everything for God and our country.
He was elected to the Filipino House of Representatives for the first time in 2010 and was reelected in 2013. He had been defeated badly in his first bid for political office in 2007, when he lost a race for Congress by nearly 30 points.
His boxing career peaked at the time he began to dabble in politics. He hooked up with trainer Freddie Roach in 2001 and the two instantly clicked, becoming one of boxing's best fighter/trainer tandems in the history of the sport.
Pacquiao had incredible speed and power when he met Roach in the trainer's Hollywood, Calif., gym, but he was basically a one-handed fighter who wasn't proficient at controling the action in the ring. Pacquiao regarded Roach as some kind of a Zen master and dutifully worked on Roach's suggestions, dramatically improving fight after fight from 2001 until about 2005, when it was obvious he was one of the elite fighters in the world.
His peak came from 2008 to 2010, a stretch in which he defended his super featherweight titles and went on to win at 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds. In that span, he knocked out Ricky Hatton, stopped Oscar De La Hoya and moved up to super welterweight to defeat Antonio Margarito at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
He had a strange dip at the end of his career. Known for his blazing speed and punching power, he failed to score a stoppage over his last six-plus years, in which he fought 11 times and was 8-3 in that stretch.
Roach attributed this to Pacquiao's religious beliefs and the fact that he became a born again Christian, but it's almost impossible to know if that had any impact upon his performance.
Unquestionably, he's bound for the International Boxing Hall of Fame and should be elected the first time he is eligible.
He's among the greatest ever to have fought, though how high he deserves to be ranked all-time will be the subject of bitter dispute between his critics and his legion of supporters.
On the positive side, he dominated an elite Miguel Cotto, knocking him out in the 12th round of a one-sided bout in 2009. He routed De La Hoya, though the Golden Boy clearly was at the end of the line. He knocked out Hatton in the second round, beating him far more definitively than anyone ever had previously. He was 2-0 against the great Marco Antonio Barrera, 3-1 against Juan Manuel Marquez and 2-1 against Timothy Bradley.
On the negative side, he fought Shane Mosley after Mosley's prime, was thoroughly outboxed and befuddled by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in their 2015 Fight of the Century mega-bout, and was knocked cold by Marquez in 2012.
Pacquiao fought 13 times above 140 pounds, and was thus a welterweight for the last seven years of his career. When looking at him in a historic perspective, one must ask how he would fare against all-time great welterweights such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Kid Gavilan, Emile Griffith, Jose Napoles, Mayweather, Felix Trinidad, De La Hoya and others.
It's almost impossible envisioning a prime Pacquiao beating any of those other fighters in their prime at welterweight. Most of the fighters would have been far too big and rangy for him, and hit far too hard.
At super featherweight, he would be matched with the likes of Alexis Arguello, Julio Cesar Chavez and Marquez. The division didn't exist in early years, and many fighters who competed at featherweight like Willie Pep, Henry Armstrong and Sandy Saddler, to name a few, likely would have campaigned at 130 pounds, as well.
Again, it's difficult to imagine him handling an Arguello or a Chavez, let alone a Saddler or an Armstrong. A bout between a prime Chavez and a prime Pacquiao, though, would have been amazing to see.
Given all that, it's probably fair to say that Pacquiao belongs somewhere near the bottom of the all-time Top 100. He scored a number of impressive wins in his career, and he retained his power for a long time while moving up in weight.
His lack of size (he stands 5-foot-5) would have created issues for him against many of the other all-time greats. But Pacquiao's speed certainly would have been a problem for many of them.
On my list, put him down somewhere between 85 and 100 all-time. It's an elite ranking reflecting his long and successful career, but it's also acknowledging that he didn't fight in one of the sport's finest eras.
It's astonishing that a fighter who held a flyweight world title could even compete with the best welterweights of his day, as Pacquiao managed to do. The fact that he carried his power with him on his move up through the weight classes is a testament to his greatness.
He was clearly a big star, attracing large crowds wherever he went. He has long been an idol among Filipino people, but his popularity transcended national boundaries. He was among the most popular boxers in Mexico and the U.S., as well, even when he was fighting Mexican and American boxers.
Seven times, he was involved in a bout that exceeded 1 million buys, including the record of 4.6 million set in his 2015 match with Mayweather. Only Mayweather, with eight, had more 1 million-plus buy fights in his career. Pacquiao is tied with ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson with seven.
Assuming Pacquiao stays retired, and given that his Senate seat is a full-time job, that seems likely, he should be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2022.
It is a fitting, though however improbable, final landing spot for a one-time street urchin who had to survive days on end with only water.