LAS VEGAS—Manny Pacquiao was sitting on a couch, talking about his dreams.
Good ones and bad, like the one he had a month before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I dreamed I lost the fight, but in my dream I also saw there was a problem,” Pacquiao said. “It happened exactly like my dream.”
A lot of boxing fans might have wished Pacquiao had disclosed his dreams before last May’s megafight. They could have saved themselves thousands of dollars for a ticket or $100 to watch at home on pay-per-view in boxing’s richest fight.
Instead they paid to see a ho-hum fight won by Mayweather, quickly followed by an excuse from Pacquiao. In the fourth round he reinjured a shoulder no one outside his camp knew was injured, Pacquiao said, leading to his defeat.
In all it was huge letdown for almost everyone involved. What was billed as one of the greatest matchups in recent years was a snoozer that looked little different from any other Mayweather fight.
Now Pacquiao returns nearly a year later for a welterweight fight with Timothy Bradley that even promoter Bob Arum is having difficulty figuring out how to sell. The two meet in a rubber match of their three-fight series Saturday night, and once again Arum wants fight fans to dig into their pockets for what could be Pacquiao’s final pay-per-view fight.
Arum has jumped in the middle of Pacquiao’s derogatory comments about gays, calling them outrageous while defending the fighter himself. He’s put together a “No Trump” undercard of Hispanic fighters and tried to market the fight as a clash between longtime Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and new Bradley trainer Teddy Atlas.
But even a promoter of Arum’s stature—he’s celebrating his 50th year in boxing this month—can do only so much. The first two fights between Pacquiao and Bradley weren’t terribly memorable, and boxing fans may still be suffering a hangover from the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.
While his fight with Mayweather generated 4.4 million buys, this one will struggle to do the 700,000 Arum is predicting, even at a lower price. There are also still tickets available at the MGM Grand box office, also a lot cheaper than the Mayweather fight.
Still, there’s a good chance this will be Pacquiao’s last fight, the final time we’ll see the remarkable Filipino who started boxing in the ring at age 12. He’s running for Senate in the Philippines, and if he wins he’ll have a full-time job that would leave little time for training.
He runs hot and cold about leaving boxing, though, and there is the alluring prospect of another big payday or two if he is impressive against Bradley.
“It’s hard to say right now,” Pacquiao said. “I haven’t been there. I don’t know the feeling of being there. But I’m OK with that (retirement).”
If Pacquiao does retire it won’t be because he’s taken too many punches in 65 fights over the last 21 years. He still has his mental faculties, as evidenced by a command of English that gets better every fight, and feels fresh after taking nearly a year off to relax and repair his shoulder.
But he’s getting pressure from his wife to stop boxing, and wants to transition from being a congressman to a senator and, perhaps in the future, make a run for the presidency.
“It’ not about being tired of boxing,” Pacquiao said. “It’s about the advice of my family.”
Even with the loss to Mayweather in a fight that paid him more than $100 million, Pacquiao would seem to have little left to prove in the ring. He won his first title 18 years ago at 112 pounds and added seven others in the years in between as he transformed from scrappy fighter to boxing superstar.
He also claims to have some money still left after years of buying cars, houses and providing for the needs of a lot of his countrymen.
“I’m OK, I’m OK,” Pacquiao said about his finances.
Sitting on the couch in a VIP room at the MGM Grand a few days before his fight with Bradley, Pacquiao seemed at peace with both his life and career. He laughed easily, tried his best to explain contradictions in when exactly his shoulder was hurt (he now claims 2009) and talked about how moving up in weight had taken away some of his knockout power.
He also talked about his dreams, including the one that came to him before the Mayweather fight that he would lose. There have been no dreams about this fight, Pacquiao said, although Roach was quick to offer one of his own.
“I dreamed that he wins this fight by a knockout,” Roach said.