What’s next for Manny Pacquiao?

Team Pacquiao still wants to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr, and is eyeing two to three fights in 2014

COMPASSION. Coach Freddie Roach says Manny's compassion got in the way of a knockout. Photo by Team Pacquiao / Mike Young

MACAU – For Manny Pacquiao, the job is done. At least for now.

Hours after his dominant unanimous decision victory over Mexican-American fighter Brandon Rios, his team gathered for a celebration party — but it’s not like typical ones he’s had in the past. This one is a Christian fellowship at one of the conference rooms at the Venetian Hotel.

Along with Team Pacquiao, hundreds of fans came together to give thanks for his victory. It’s the type of event Pacquiao now prefers — a stark contrast to the old days when he would celebrate in grand style, with mini-concerts he’d perform at himself.

PRAYERS. Church leaders in Macau prayer over Pacquiao following his victory over Brandon Rios. Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

Immediately after his win, he told reporters in his locker room, “Prayer and support that was a big help for me. The Lord listened to our prayer and gave us strength today. I’m so happy that we Filipinos have united.” (WATCH: Manny Pacquiao post-fight locker room interview)

That night, Pacquiao’s suite swelled with proud friends and fans, congratulating the boxer for his stellar performance. Visitors included Hollywood celebrities Paris Hilton and Stephen Baldwin, as well as other Filipino personalities. 

The crowds eventually thinned later in the evening, leaving only those closest to Pacquiao — his assistant trainer and best friend Bubuy Fernandez, his pregnant wife Jinkee, and his personal bodyguard and friend among others — for whom the rest of the rooms in his huge suite was reserved.

BLESSINGS. Baldwin prayed that Pacquiao might "fight the good fight." Photo by Rappler / Michael Josh Villanueva

The morning after his victory on Monday, November 25, Pacquiao again had another more intimate bible study in his room led by Baldwin. The rest of his team had gone to the airport to prepare for his chartered flight to General Santos City, leaving just Pacquiao and Jinkee and a handful of others, who followed immediately to the airport.

Pacquiao left his suite a little before noon.

On his way out, he told Rappler he said he felt good waking up this morning with no pains from the 12-round clash he had the day before, but after being completely focused on training the past 3 months — welcomed the opportunity to rest and return to work.

“Vacation first, back to work. [I’ll go to] Tacloban and also [return to] Congress,” he said.

On Sunday, November 24, Pacquiao returned to the ring after a one-year lay-off. Coming off two consecutive losses, Pacquiao faced off with Rios, a boxer 7 years younger, with the pressure of silencing his critics and uplifting the spirits of typhoon victims in the Philippines on his shoulders.

Pacquiao delivered one of his best performances in a while, outboxing and outclassing Rios with his speed and experience. The impressive showing was enough to convince analysts and sportswriters the 8-division world champion’s boxing career is far from over, contrary to what critics previously believed.

Still Mayweather

As Pacquiao goes on his much-deserved vacation, boxing fans meanwhile will excitedly contemplate his next fight.

After Pacquiao’s win, names of Pacquiao’s next possible opponents were thrown around at the press conference specifically American Timothy Bradley who defeated Pacquiao early last year by split decision in one of the sport’s most controversial decisions; Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao’s bitter arch rival who dealt Pacquiao a devastating 6th round knockout in December 2012 triggering his one year lay-off; and Floyd Mayweather Jr, widely considered the sport’s top boxer right now, with whom past fight negotiations versus Pacquiao have consistently fallen through.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said he “personally” wants to fight Marquez again but said the Mexican, who has fought Pacquiao 4 times, would want a lot of money for a 5th fight.

He said he could also see reason in a Bradley fight.

“Bradley is out there, I think Bradley is someone we have to avenge a loss [with] even though [Pacquiao] obviously won that fight so easily,” he said.

But Roach, like most fans, still had one name on top of his list: Mayweather.

“Obviously Mayweather. He’s the number one guy we want,” he said.

Pacquiao too called out Mayweather, saying he is open to fighting him.

“My job is to fight. Anyone who will fight me, I can fight. I’m willing to fight Floyd, but it’s up to him if he’s willing also,” he said.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao will next fight on April 12, and will likely return to Las Vegas. Arum said he was aware of the clamor for a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, and said he believed it could happen if “both sides cut the crap.” The undefeated Mayweather, who works under a different promoter, has been unable to come up with a deal with Arum’s side to make the lucrative fight happen.

“If there’s a will there’s a way,” he said.

Pacquiao told Rappler he has two more years with Arum on his contract.

Roach said he would be happy with whoever Arum could get into the ring with Pacquiao but said he would like to see Pacquiao fight early in 2014.

“I like seeing activity in my fighters. I’d like to see Manny fight two or 3 times [next] year. The sooner the better,” he said.

Pacquiao also said he’s “excited” to fight again, especially after his performance which he said he was happy with. He said he was able to prove “the old Manny Pacquiao is back,” and that it is not his time to retire just yet.

“I’m so happy and thankful to God that he answered my prayer that we will rise again and I think I proved it today, to all of you,” he said. – Rappler.com