(STAR) By Abac Cordero and Cecille Suerte Felipe - Boxing idol Manny Pacquiao is looking at two more fights after Oscar dela Hoya in December, and possibly many more in the political ring in the coming years as he made a surprise announcement yesterday that he will retire by August next year after being sworn in as member of President Arroyo’s political party.

Pacquiao, who took his oath as member of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino or Kampi, is scheduled to face Dela Hoya on Dec. 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a fight where he stands to receive around $15 million. He took his oath before Kampi chair Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno at the DILG office in Quezon City.

Pacquiao, at 29 already the richest and most popular Filipino athlete ever, has nothing more to prove in the ring.

He was welcomed by other Kampi members, including presidential son Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez and Manila Rep. Trishia David.

Puno said Pacquiao is a “plus factor” for Kampi and is expected to greatly help convince Filipinos in Mindanao, especially in South Cotabato, to abandon violence and put their trust in the government’s peace and development efforts.

Pacquiao ran but lost to Rep. Darlene Antonino in the first district of South Cotabato last May 2007. The boxing champ said he lost because he had little time to campaign as he was then preparing for his boxing re-match with Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez.

Puno said Kampi will ensure an election victory for Pacquiao if he decides to run for any position in 2010.

The DILG chief said Pacquiao took his oath under the Liberal Party wing of Environment Secretary Lito Atienza but he registered as Kampi member in his failed congressional bid.

Pacquiao said he decided to join Kampi to show the Filipinos that he “could also be champion when it comes to helping our countrymen.”

Kampi, the second largest political party in the country, has in its ranks 55 congressmen and 15 governors, among others.

Puno noted that Kampi has a strong presence in Central Mindanao, especially in the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani.

Pacquiao promised he would not be influenced by dirty politics. “I want to help my countrymen, but the honor I gave to the country is not enough because it can’t feed the people,” he said in Filipino.

Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee are expecting their fourth child in December or January.

Win or lose in December, Pacquiao will be good for two more big fights, and his advisers are looking at British cyclone Ricky Hatton, probably in March or April, or Floyd Mayweather Jr. by July or August.

If he wins them all, he can retire as the greatest boxer of his era.

Pacquiao said his parents have advised him to retire after his match with Dela Hoya.

Mayweather, the former pound-for-pound king until Pacquiao came along, retired early this year, but insiders believe that if the Filipino superstar gets past Dela Hoya and Hatton, then he’s next.

“We are hoping that if Manny beats Dela Hoya and then Hatton, we can lure Mayweather out of retirement. There’s no more easy fight, no more small fight for Manny until he retires,” said his business manager Eric Pineda.

“If we beat Oscar, then we go for Ricky, and then go for Floyd Jr. That will be the mother of all battles – between two pound-for-pound champions,” he said.

Pacquiao said he has started his conditioning-training but he will leave for the United States on Sept. 14 or about three months before the match.

The world boxing champ said he knew a lot of weaknesses of Dela Hoya, 35, but he refused to reveal them to prevent the Mexican boxer from preparing or improving on his weaknesses.

Pacquiao has also refused to disclose the strategy he would use for the fight.

The Filipino boxing icon also said his camp and that of Dela Hoya have agreed on the split on the purse. “It’s bigger than the 70-30 in favor of Dela Hoya, but I won’t reveal the exact figure,” Pacquiao said.

“It’s a great honor to fight him because he’s my idol. Fighting him is in itself an honor, more so if I win,” Pacquiao told reporters.

Dela Hoya was already fighting as a lightweight (134 lbs), and was on a hot 17-0 winning streak when Pacquiao began his pro career in 1995 as a gangling 106-pounder.

Pacquiao said he remembers the day when he fought Lehlo Ledwaba on June 23, 2001 at the MGM in the undercard of Dela Hoya’s fight against Javier Castillejo.

Pacquiao won that night and took the IBF super-bantamweight (122 lbs) crown while Dela Hoya survived 12 rounds for the WBC light-middleweight (154 lbs) crown.

Pacquiao stands to earn $10 million to $15 million or even more for this fight, and may even get an extra $3 million if Dela Hoya weighs in a pound or a fraction heavier than the limit.

Senators to Pacman: Forget politics By Christina Mendez Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Senators advised boxing champion Manny Pacquiao yesterday against going into politics after he was sworn in as a member of President Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

Malacañang, on the other hand, expressed its strong support for Pacquiao’s plans to retire from boxing next year and pursue his political ambitions in 2010.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Loren Legarda and Panfilo Lacson shared the same sentiment that Pacquiao should just focus on his boxing career.

“Manny Pacquiao is my friend, I hope he will not allow himself to be used by politicians, especially when he retires or he might lose all his money,” Zubiri said, warning the boxer that his $1-million prize money from the match with Diaz could be used up in just one campaign.

Zubiri said Pacquiao should simply concentrate on his next fight against Oscar dela Hoya.

“I suggest it’s too early to talk politics for Manny,” Zubiri said, adding that Pacquiao can do better if he sets up a foundation that will look after the welfare of aspiring Filipino boxers and a provident fund for retired boxers.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. said he is leaving it up to Pacquiao’s sound decision if he pursues a career in politics and that it’s a free country.

“Well, everyone can run. It’s such a waste, our country will lose a hero. But if that’s what he wants, we’ll respect that,” Villar said in Filipino.

Villar said Pacquiao’s decision to join Kampi is not a surprising move for the boxing champion who has always been with the administration.

Lacson described Pacquiao’s decision to join politics as a “kiss of death.”

“It’s his own decision but it seems that he has not learned from the past. If he ran for congressman under the opposition banner (in the last elections), he could have won. He lost an election, he never learns,” Lacson said.

Lacson said it was obvious that Pacquiao is just being used by his handlers at Kampi.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said he will support Pacquiao if he runs for congress, adding that if Pacquiao has the heart to serve the people, he should not be stopped.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said Pacquiao, “just like anybody, has the right to dream, to engage in politics and serve the country.”

“For a man who has all the fame, glory, adulation and wealth he could ever want in a lifetime, the only purpose to be in politics is to be of service and help his countrymen, especially his constituents in a direct, sustained and institutional fashion,” added Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio.

Claudio said Pacquiao, who hails from General Santos City, “could inspire unity among diverse ethnic, religious and political groups in Mindanao, the way he would unite and rally the entire nation every time he fights in the professional ring.”

Claudio and Fajardo, however, were not as supportive of Joey de Venecia III, son of Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr., who is also reportedly planning to run as congressman in his father’s district.

When asked about the younger De Venecia’s plan, Fajardo said, “We wish him well.”

She also downplayed reports on the breakup of the administration coalition, saying President Arroyo remains well-loved by political leaders in the provinces. – With Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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