Senator and Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao is in a tough spot these days as the inactivity forced by the COVID-19 pandemic on many athletes keeps him from adding more fights to his resume given his advancing age.
While “Pacman” has proven without a shadow of a doubt in his last fight he has more than enough left in his tank, ONE Championship featherweight contender Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly, however, would rather have his childhood hero ride off into the sunset if it were up to him.
While he is certainly confident Pacquiao can continue to perform at a high level against the rising young stars of boxing, Kelly says it will only end badly for the Filipino legend, win or lose.
“I totally understand why he continues to fight, and he’s just an even bigger hero for continuing to carry Philippine boxing on the global stage. But if he wins, critics will say he’s just fighting for the money. If he loses, they will say he’s already old,” said Kelly.
“We all come into sports wanting to be great. We want to be heroes for our people. But Manny is a legend because he was able to achieve that. He did it through hard work and sheer willpower. He is my inspiration. He brought his family out of poverty with his own sweat. Nothing can change that.”
Pacquiao, the only man to win world championships in eight divisions, is at the tail end of his career. He was last seen in the ring in July 2019, where he lifted the WBA ‘Super’ World Welterweight Title from the previously unbeaten Keith Thurman by split decision.
Pacquiao got to a blazing start in this fight. A right straight send Thurman to the canvass in the first round. That served as a key point in pulling the decision and became the highlight of the match.
Experts are convinced the fiery Filipino fighter is but one bout away from retirement, although Pacquiao and his Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach have a few opponents in mind.
Roach says the 41-year old Pacquiao most likely will not fight in 2020, and a ring return next year is more probable. Naturally, talks and speculation of Pacquiao’s next dance partner have circulated the newswires.
Following the Thurman fight, names rumored to be in the Pacquiao sweepstakes include former world champions Danny “Swift” Garcia and Amir Khan, and former sparring partner Shawn Porter, in addition to marquee talent Errol Spence Jr., and pound-for-pound best Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Lately, the name of UFC star and former two-division MMA champion Connor McGregor was added to the list.
For Kelly, he will always hold Pacquiao in the highest regard, with Pacman’s legacy already etched in stone. Pacquiao will always be a hero and inspiration to the Filipino people.
“Manny Pacquiao, for me, and for many fans around the world, is the greatest boxer of all time. We Filipinos are so proud of him. His name will forever be etched into the pages of history,” said Kelly.
“Personally, he has inspired me a lot, not just because he is a tremendously talented boxer, [and] he is, but also because, to me, he’s a hero. He came from literally [with] nothing [stature] in life to [making] it to the pinnacle of boxing — the absolute highest levels. It’s such an inspiring story. He proved that there is no dream we can’t achieve if we pour ourselves into it.”
“I think retirement may be on the table for Manny. He’s already done everything he could in the ring. He was the greatest at his peak. There are a lot of young, hungry fighters coming up, and boxing is a young man’s game. There’s nothing left to prove,” said Kelly.
Ironically, the 36-year-old Kelly could be at the same booth as his idol when it comes to leaving the fight game. The man they call “The Ferocious” dropped three of his last four and five of his last eight contests which put the retirement bells just around the corner if he couldn’t turn his fortunes around.
Kelly, however, continues to work hard in the gym, training with his brothers at the famed Team Lakay in Baguio City while waiting for the call to compete in efforts to get his career back on track.
He is currently sporting a 12-8 win-loss card. He came closest to getting a title shot when he faced the now ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee in back-to-back bouts.
He escaped with a victory in the first fight when Lee executed a faulty suplex in Round 1 despite seemingly having the upper hand in the first fight held on September, 2018. The suplex disqualified Lee and handed Kelly the victory.
Kelly, however, could not repeat as Lee reversed the outcome in the rematch held on January, 2019 by finishing the match by ground and pound in the first round.
With ONE Championship recently resuming its flagship event schedules and as more Asian countries begin to ease restrictions due to Covid-19, Kelly and other members of Team Lakay as well as other Filipino athletes could once again appear on the cards.
Given that Kelly is five years younger than Pacquiao, it is still definitely too early to write off “The Ferocious” from a successful comeback and a title shot.
By Armando M. Bolislis