Manny Pacquiao came close to competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics

Santino Honasan on Jul 02, 2020 11:34 AM
Manny Pacquiao came close to competing in the 2016 Olympics
Could Manny Pacquiao have given the Philippines it's first Olympic gold medal in boxing back in 2016? (FILE - AP Photo/John Locher)

Back in 2016, Olympic boxing was given a major development after AIBA, boxing’s governing body, allowed all boxers - even professionals - to compete in the summer Olympic games, provided that they qualified to do so. 

With that development, the possibility of Manny Pacquiao, the sport’s only eight-division boxing world champion representing the Philippines on the world stage was at an all-time high. 

Pacquiao himself said in an interview that he would compete if professionals were allowed. 

Imagine Pacquiao tearing through the competition and claiming the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal? 

According to Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines secretary-general Ed Picson, “Pacman” donning the tri-colors was close to becoming a reality for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 

“The president of AIBA then, si Dr. Wu [Ching-kuo], asked ABAP to extend to Manny Pacquiao the invitation,” Picson revealed on Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA Forum). “Ang problema lang, in 2016, he won as senator. Eh the Olympics, which was in July, coincided with the opening of the session of the senate.”

Picson added that Pacquiao said he didn’t want to be absent on the senate session’s opening day, since he had already drawn a lot of flak for his absences due to his training camp and fight schedules during his time as a congressman. 

“Ang sabi sa akin ni Senator Pacquiao, ‘Ed, kung mag-aabsent ako sa unang session, ma-yayari na naman ako.’ kasi diba that was the criticism against him in Congress? Sabi niya ‘Unang-unang session ng Senado, aabsent ako?’ so he had to beg off.”

“But you know, we invited him to the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in 2016, and he came. He was only there for 15 hours, walang tulugan. Galing Manila, he flew to Dubai, and from Dubai to Doha, stayed there for maybe 13 hours, then left again, back for Manila,” Picson added. 

That commitment, Picson said, reflected how serious Pacquiao was to possibly going the Olympic route. 

“That’s how serious he was, he met with the president of AIBA and all the other AIBA officials there, and he was entertaining thoughts of fighting for the country in the Rio Olympics, yun nga lang, na-taon na opening ng session ng Senado, so he couldn’t go.” 

While discussions with Pacquiao never progressed past that phase, Picson believes that Pacquiao would have competed at welterweight and could have trained and sparred with future-Olympian Eumir Marcial, who was in that same division at the time. 

(READ ALSO: Eumir Marcial says Manny Pacquiao offered to manage his pro career)

“Actually, in hindsight, sa tingin ko ah, kung lalaban siya, malamang dun siya sa category ni Eumir eh…si Eumir at that time was at 69-kilos, kaya sinasabi ko nga pwede i-spar kay Eumir ito, kung saka-sakaling gusto niyang lumaban. But, wala na ‘yun eh, water under the bridge,” Picson said. 

Marcial, who now competes in the middleweight division, booked his spot in the Tokyo Olympics, which was moved to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How would Pacquiao have fared in the 2016 Rio Olympics if he actually did end up competing? 

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