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21 April 2024

Filipino boxing great Pacquiao on crusade against poverty


Manny Pacquiao still trains with the joy that has been a trademark of his spectacular boxing career, but outside of the ring he speaks in ominous tones about his crusade against wickedness.

The 37-year-old, who famously hauled himself out of poverty in the Philippines to become one of the world's greatest and wealthiest boxers, is nearing retirement.

After a recent training session in his impoverished southern hometown of General Santos, Pacquiao told AFP he was looking forward to hanging up his gloves after fighting Timothy Bradley in April, and pursuing a political career.

Pacquiao, already a congressman, is running for a Senate seat in May elections - with an eye on an eventual presidential run - and his star power in a nation famed for its celebrity-obsessed politics is likely to see him win.

But the diminutive boxer, loved for so long in sporting circles for his friendly demeanour and reluctance to trash talk opponents, offered no spirit of compromise to his political foes.

"My goal is to serve the people honestly and to expose the wickedness and detestable things in God's eye that most of the politicians do," Pacquiao said when asked about his political ambitions.

Pacquiao's political narrative is indeed heavily focused on helping the poor, and in his home province he is genuinely loved by many for spending some of his fortune on his constituents.

In the interview with AFP, Pacquiao described his "joy and happiness" at personally funding new housing for more than 1,000 families in the southern Philippines.

But the former street kid added he had a more important reason for voters to choose him.

"I have a pure heart," he said. "I am serving with the guidance of the Lord and I am serving with the fear of the Lord."