By Tim Dahlberg
AP Boxing Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao says he’s thinking about fighting for his country in the Olympics this summer if the boxing competition is open to professional fighters.
His promoter, though, thinks the idea of any pro fighting in Rio — much less the eight-time world champion — is a terrible idea.
“The idea that you’ll allow professionals into the Olympics at this short notice is absolutely insane,” promoter Bob Arum said. “These people ought to have their heads examined.”
The head of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has proposed allowing pros in the Olympics, though it’s doubtful the plan would be implemented by Rio because qualification tournaments are either under way or have already been held for boxers in most countries.
Pacquiao, who fights Timothy Bradley April 9 in his first bout since losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last May, said the idea of boxing for a gold medal intrigues him.
“I’m not saying I’m going to fight or saying I’m not,” Pacquiao said “I’m not closing the door. I’m thinking about it.”
Pacquiao is running for the Senate in his native Philippines, and a win in the elections next month could put an end to his boxing career as he concentrates on politics. But the possibility of fighting for his country in the Olympics could also be used to help him win votes in the campaign.
No Filipino has ever won a gold medal in the Olympics, though boxers have won a total of five silver and bronze medals. A gold medal for Pacquiao would, if anything, cement his status forever as the country’s greatest sports hero.
Trainer Freddie Roach said he believes the 37-year-old Pacquiao has been re-energized in training for Bradley and still has fights left in him. Pacquiao said earlier he planned to retire after fighting Bradley, but has since wavered.
“He asked me if I would train him if they let pros in the Olympics,” Roach said. “I said of course I will.”
Pacquiao and Bradley meet for the third time at the MGM Grand in a fight that will pay him $20 million. Bradley won their first fight in a controversial decision, and Pacquiao dominated him the second time they met.
Pacquiao is currently a congressman in the Philippines and there is talk of him some day becoming a presidential candidate should he win a seat in the Senate.
Arum said he can’t imagine Pacquiao fighting teenage amateurs in what would surely be mismatches in the Olympics.
“Pros can play basketball in the Olympics, yes,” Arum said. “But in basketball, you just dunk over somebody. It’s not a hurt game. If you put experienced pros in with rank amateurs, there will be serious health consequences.”
Even if pros are not allowed in Rio, the boxing will resemble the pro game more, with a 10-point must system scoring and no headgear for the first time.