(STAR)  SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson - There isn’t really anything left for Manny Pacquiao to prove in the ring. He’s captured eight world titles in eight weight divisions – a feat that is unlikely to be ever duplicated or surpassed.

Next month, Pacquiao will turn 32. He has figured in 57 fights since 1995 and with his responsibilities as a Congressman looming large in his ranking of priorities, he may no longer be as dedicated to boxing by force of circumstance.

Two of his last three bouts were savage brawls. Pacquiao endured more punishment than he bargained for in mowing down Miguel Cotto last year and Antonio Margarito just a few days ago. All that beating will take a toll on Pacquiao sooner or later.

One of the hardest decisions for a fighter to make is when to retire. Muhammad Ali didn’t know when to call it quits and paid a stiff price for prolonging his agony. Freddie Roach admitted making the same mistake. Today, both Ali and Roach suffer from pugilistic Parkinsonism.

Pacquiao has a bright future as a public servant. For all his sacrifices in the gym and the hardships in the ring, he deserves to enjoy a quality of life that befits a national hero. Pacquiao must know when to hang up his gloves with his faculties intact and his mind still sharp to address serious issues of national importance in Congress.

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What’s scary is an article written by Dr. Ira Casson, chairman of the National Football League’s committee on concussions, for the National Parkinson Foundation estimating that boxers with at least 50 pro bouts often show “MRI and psychological test abnormalities” as well as “obvious symptoms of brain injury.” Sports Illustrated writer Pablo Torre once quoted Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery and co-director of the Center for Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University Medical Center, as saying that “the rate of chronic brain damage among fighters is at least one in five and more likely, one in two.”

Pacquiao absorbed quite a battering from Cotto and Margarito even if he beat them both. His right ear was bandaged after the Cotto bout and he was clearly hurt by a pair of left hook-uppercuts to the side of the body in the sixth round of the Margarito battle. Pacquiao has also suffered cuts in several fights and the record books will show he took a total of five trips to the canvas although one, in the first Marco Antonio Barrera outing, was a slip.

Although he’s been in serious scrapes, Pacquiao has a lot of fight left. He should be competitive in his weight division for at least two or three more big bouts. But at this stage in his career where he has nothing more to prove, Pacquiao should be selective in whom he takes on. If he decides to continue fighting for two or three more bouts, every opponent must contribute to his growing legacy. He can’t just pick any ordinary opponent. It must be an opponent worthy of fighting the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer.

Forget Juan Manuel Marquez who’s now too small for Pacquiao. Forget Andre Berto who isn’t marketable. Forget Sugar Shane Mosley who’s over the hill. There’s only one man worthy of keeping Pacquiao active in the ring – the man who used to be the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter until his retirement.

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Unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the only fighter out there with the credentials to embellish Pacquiao’s legendary status. If Pacquiao has to continue fighting, it will only be to face Mayweather in what could be the biggest grossing pay-per-view boxing event in history. It’s a fight that could easily generate 3 million pay-per-view buys, easily eclipsing the record of 2.4 million set by Mayweather and Oscar de la Hoya in 2007. It’s a fight that could reward Pacquiao and Mayweather with a purse of at least $50 million apiece. But more than anything else, it’s the fight every fan wants to see. With Pacquiao’s emerging recognition as the greatest fighter of all-time, a Mayweather duel could be the ultimate showdown of the century to rival the drama of Ali versus Frazier, Leonard versus Duran, Graziano versus Zale and Holyfield versus Bowe.

There is talk of a trilogy between Pacquiao and Mayweather. It makes business sense. Any fight involving both stars will be close. The outcome will probably be inconclusive if they face off only once. It’ll be a match-up of hero against villain, offense against defense.

What’s more, Pacquiao and Mayweather fight in the same division. They’re both welterweights so there won’t be a need to negotiate a catchweight limit. They’ll tip the scales within 141 to 147. It’s a match made in heaven and the only fight that should prevent Pacquiao from retiring. Once Mayweather is silenced, Pacquiao can move on to accomplish greater things for the greater good as he is destined to make a difference in Philippine history beyond the ring.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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