Pacquiao eyes bigger Junior MPBL amid exhibition bout preps

Philip Matel

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Pacquiao eyes bigger Junior MPBL amid exhibition bout preps

ICON. Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in a speaking engagement.


Manny Pacquiao, who’s set for an exhibition match late July, looks to expand the Junior Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League by tapping young Filipino talents in the US and Europe

MANILA, Philippines – While Manny Pacquiao has not yet completely abandoned his boxing career, he also continues to dream big for his growing regional basketball league.

Pacquiao, who’s set for an exhibition match late July, looks to expand the Junior Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) after a successful inaugural season.

“We are engaging in talks with states across the [United States], regions in the [United Kingdom], and various parts of Europe for Junior MPBL expansion,” Pacquiao, the league founder, said during a press conference in Manila on Tuesday, June 25.

“This global initiative aims to elevate the visibility of Filipino basketball talent on an international stage, opening doors for our young athletes to compete and excel on a broader platform.” 

Pacquiao said the league aims to add another age bracket, this time catering to collegiate-level players, to tap more talents after crowning champions in the 14-and-under, 16U, and 18U age brackets.

The league is also set to launch a new 21U tournament, dubbed the Junior MPBL Development League, set to tip off on the second week of July.

Current plans, according to league officials, are to hold regional tournaments, initially in the United States next year, then bring the champions to the Philippines for a National Finals.

During the inaugural staging of the Junior MPBL in 2023, Cavite City, Davao City, and Mandaluyong ruled the 14U, 16U, and 18U categories, respectively.

The games ran parallel to MPBL games, which are staged in venues across the archipelago.

‘Foster the development’

According to league official Keith Picazo, the 18 teams will be divided into two brackets, battling in a single round-robin format.

The top eight teams will then advance to the playoffs, where they will play in a best-of-three quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals series.

The 18 teams include Biñan, Caloocan, Negros, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Meycauayan, Novaliches, Pasig, Quezon City, Quezon Province, Palawan, San Pedro City, Zamboanga City, San Juan City, Valenzuela, and two more unnamed teams who expressed intention of joining.

College varsities are allowed to join, provided they have secured the clearance of their respective schools.

Pacquiao said the new age bracket could also serve as a feeder to their senior MPBL squads.

“The league fosters the development of young athletes and provides them with a crucial opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities,” the eight-division boxing champion said.

“Through Junior MPBL, they can possibly secure spots in college varsity teams or even in the MPBL,” he continued.

Three-round return

Pacquiao has also been trying to get back in shape as he fights Japanese mixed martial artist Chihiro Suzuki in a three-round exhibition bout on July 28.

Suzuki, 25, currently has a 13-3-1 win-loss-no contest record in MMA, but Pacquiao was quick to note the differences between the two combat sports.

“Maybe he was thinking that boxing is easier than MMA. Boxing is more difficult because boxing is exhausting… you need to last for 12 rounds,” Pacquiao said.

“My opponent does not have boxing experience yet, so that’s why I want to teach him [a lesson] on what boxing is,” he said in jest.

Pacquiao, who retired from professional boxing in 2021, is also floating the idea of an in-ring return against American Mario Barrios for the WBC welterweight belt.

He last fought professionally – a unanimous decision loss against Cuban pugilist Yordenis Ugas in August 2021 – before running for the Philippine presidency in May 2022, also a loss. –

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