Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino boxing legend and presidential candidate in 2022, said on Wednesday that he is retiring from the ring after a spectacular decades-long career.
The eight-division world champion and senator, who is vying to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in a high-stakes election, said leaving boxing was the “hardest decision” of his life.
Pacquiao, 42, said in a video statement on Twitter that instantly went viral, “It’s difficult for me to accept that my time as a fighter is finished.”
“I am announcing my retirement today.”
Pacquiao’s statement comes just weeks after he lost his last professional fight in Las Vegas to Cuban Yordenis Ugas.
Pacquiao, who first entered politics in 2010 as a congressman before being elected to the Senate, announced last week that he will run for President of the Philippines.
Pacquiao, a married father of five, praised his millions of fans worldwide and singled out long-time trainer Freddie Roach, whom he characterized as “my family, a brother, and a buddy.”
Pacquiao’s decision puts an end to weeks of speculation that he was ready to retire.
Pacquiao claimed boxing has given him “the chance to battle my way out of poverty” and “the fortitude to change more lives” in a video statement.
“What I have done and accomplished in my life is something I will never forget. Pacquiao, regarded as one of the best boxers of all time, stated, “I can’t believe I just heard the final bell.”
Many Filipinos idolize Pacquiao for his striking power as well as his ascent from poverty to the top of the sport.
His backing for Duterte’s lethal drug war and homophobic attitudes, though, have brought a slew of critics.
Pacquiao has pledged to fight poverty and corruption as he prepares to register as a presidential contender, hoping to appeal to voters with his rags-to-riches story.
Pacquiao’s objective is not unattainable in a country known for celebrity-obsessed politics after two terms as a congressman and one as a senator.
However, victory is far from certain.
Fans see Pacquiao as living proof that anyone can achieve success if they work hard enough, regardless of their background.
However, detractors charge that the high school dropout lacks intelligence and is a regular no-show in the Senate, raising concerns about his competence to lead a country of 110 million people.
Pacquiao has risked political capital in a public fight with Duterte, who rivals the boxer for the hearts of many Filipinos and has previously mentioned him as a possible successor, less than a year before the polls.
He’s also created controversy by endorsing Duterte’s brutal drug war, which rights groups claim has murdered tens of thousands of primarily poor men and prompted the International Criminal Court to open an investigation.