By Peter Hutchison
HONG KONG, November 6, 2013 (AFP) – Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao said Wednesday he was expecting to defeat American Brandon Rios in Macau later this month, but insisted if he did lose he would not retire.
The 34-year-old, once regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, faces the bout of his life in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory as he bids to break a losing streak and keep his boxing legacy intact.
“It’s one of the most important fights of my career because I want to show my fans and the world that I can still compete at a high level with elite boxers,” Pacquiao, speaking from his training camp in the Philippines, told reporters during a group phone interview.
A former champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, Pacquiao – who turns 35 in December – is seeking to come back from two consecutive defeats which have led supporters to question if he should hang up his gloves.
His seven-year, 15-fight winning streak came to an end in June 2012 with a controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley.
It was followed six months later by a sensational sixth-round knockout defeat to Mexican arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
But “Pac-Man”, as he is known to his fans, insisted the losses have not affected him psychologically, and said he did not contemplate being defeated by Rios in the former Portuguese colony on November 24.
“I am expecting to win this fight,” he said of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title bout.
“It’s a really important fight for me in my boxing career because I lost the last two,” Pacquiao added, pledging an “aggressive” strategy.
The Philippine boxing hero-turned-congressman insisted he felt “no extra pressure following the two losses”.
“It doesn’t affect me. As far as boxing is concerned sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
Pacquiao’s sporting achievements have made him a national hero, turning him into one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, a showbiz celebrity and, in 2010, a member of parliament.
He is now a second-term congressman with ambitions of eventually becoming president, and critics have questioned whether his diminishing prowess in the ring was because he had become distracted by his many other endeavours.
Following his excruciating defeat to Marquez – whose hammerblow right at the end of the sixth sent the Filipino crashing to the canvas – family, friends and media commentators called on him to retire.
But Pacquiao, whose record stands at 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts, said Wednesday he had the desire to continue, and losing to 27-year-old Rios would not change that.
“I feel comfortable and confident about going on to win this fight,” he declared. “I am not looking to retire if I lose this fight.
“My motivation is that boxing is in my blood. I enjoy it and I like to entertain my fans worldwide,” he added.
Many of his comments during the phone interview were relayed by a manager because they were inaudible to reporters.
The bout – at Macau’s Venetian casino resort and billed as “The Clash in Cotai” – will be Pacquiao’s first fight outside the United States since 2006.
It is due to take place on the Sunday morning, ensuring a prime-time Saturday night audience in America.