Manila - Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao said
on Friday he would skip the Rio Olympics even if professionals were allowed to
compete, knocking out the Philippines' best chance of winning its first gold
Pacquiao, who was this month elected to his
nation's Senate and harbours dreams of becoming president, said he wanted to
instead focus on his political career.
"I have decided to prioritise my
legislative duty as I owe it to the people who voted for me," the
eight-time world champion and national hero said in a text message.
Pacquiao, 37, had previously said his
victory over American Timothy Bradley last month would be the final fight of
his career so he could pursue his political ambitions.
But Pacquiao never fully closed the door on
his boxing career, saying he could be tempted out of retirement for a chance at
Olympic glory in August or another mega-bucks fight against arch-rival Floyd
In a highly controversial move, the
International Boxing Association proposed a few months ago allowing
professional boxers to compete at the Rio Games, and will put it to a vote at
its congress in Lausanne next week.
Pacquiao's American promoter, Bob Arum, was
among the many critics of the plan, saying putting amateurs into the ring against
seasoned professionals would be "total madness".
But in anticipation of a successful vote,
the International Boxing Association had already invited Pacquiao.
Pacquiao did not wade into the controversy
on Friday, saying only he wanted to be prepared for his new job as a senator
starting on June 30.
"So I believe I don't have enough time
to prepare (for the Olympics)," Pacquiao said.
The Philippines is an Olympics minnow,
having only won nine bronze and silver medals since debuting at the 1924 Paris
Games. Five of those medals were in boxing.
Pacquiao has never competed in the
Olympics, although he was the country's flag-bearer at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Pacquiao had told sporting officials he
hoped to compete in Rio as a way of giving back to the Philippines, Association
of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines executive director Ed Picson said.
However, he may have been concerned about
criticism over his poor attendance record in Congress, according to Picson.
Pacquiao served two three-year stints as a congressman from 2010, but barely
turned up to sessions as he pursued his boxing career.
"I expected he might have second
thoughts because he received brickbats about being absent in Congress and
that's a fresh wound. It was used against him during the campaign and he's
probably still smarting about it," Picson said.Just 11 Filipino athletes have so far
qualified for Rio, two of whom are boxers.