Posted on August 11, 2016, by Travis Pulver
It’s a little naïve, but when it comes to our favorite athletes, we like to think they play for the love of the game. We want our quarterbacks to play because they love to sound the crowd makes when they toss a 45-yard touchdown bomb. We want our sluggers to play because the crack of the bat is the sweetest sound in the world.
We understand that they are going to make a ton of money in the process, but we don’t want them doing what they do because they get paid so well. But it appears that is why boxing legend Manny Pacquiao is returning to the ring.
Shortly after he “retired” rumors began to swirl about a return—against another recently retired boxer, Floyd Mayweather. The sports media talked about the rumors for weeks, but when nothing substantial formed they let it die. Talks about a Pacquiao returning persisted and the return finally became official with the announcement he would be fighting Jessie Vargas November 5 in Las Vegas.
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Much like his choice of Timothy Bradley for his final fight, the Vargas announcement was met with a lot of criticism. If his return were about his legacy in the sport, he would have taken a fight against a tougher opponent like Terrence Crawford (29-0 with 20 knockouts). Going with Vargas is like saying he knows he can make a few million and not get hurt too bad, and he’s okay with that.
As it turns out, the speculation was right.
“Boxing is my main source of income. I can’t rely on my salary as a public official,” Pacquiao said. “I’m helping the family of my wife and my own family, as well. Many people also come to me to ask for help and I just couldn’t ignore them.”
Boxing promoter Bob Arum called it back in April:
“He doesn’t have money problems now, but of course he’s going to have money problems if he’s going to be building hospitals out of his own pocket instead of letting the [Philippines] government build the hospitals,” Arum said.
During his career, he made around $400 million in the ring, so if he has to come back because he needs the money, he must say yes to every friend, relative, and worthy cause that knocks on his door.
When he announced that he would be retiring after his last fight against Timothy Bradley few believed he would actually retire or if he did, there would be no way he would stay retired for long. It was nice that he wanted to keep the promise he made to his wife and family. It was certainly commendable that he wanted to focus on being a politician and serving the people that elected him.
But when he talked about the decision, it was clear his heart wasn’t in it:
“My heart is 50/50,” Pacquiao said (LATimes). “I love my family…. Boxing is a really hard sport, very difficult. I might enjoy retired life or I may come back…. Right now, my decision is to retire.… I love to help people.”
“Let me enjoy first a retired life,” he said. “If you ask me [if I’ll] come back, I don’t know. I might be enjoying retired life. I’m not there yet, so I don’t know the feeling. I’ve committed to my family. I’ve made my decision already.”
Sure enough–he’s back. While it will be nice to see him fight again, when guys keep playing or fighting because they like the paycheck, their performance suffers. If that ends up being the case with Manny Pacquiao, he will still be remembered as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of the modern era, but he may not be able to remember how great he was himself.