Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has set his sights on a new horizon: the Paris Olympics. In a surprising turn of events, the former eight-division world champion expressed his fervent desire to compete for an Olympic medal in the upcoming Paris Games. This revelation has ignited excitement and curiosity across the sports world.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino shared the news, revealing that Pacquiao’s camp had initiated discussions on how the iconic pugilist could qualify for the prestigious event. Tolentino informed the press that the POC had already engaged in talks with the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is overseeing the Olympic boxing competitions in the absence of the International Boxing Association.
However, the road to the Olympics has a few hurdles for the 44-year-old Senator. Pacquiao’s age places him outside the eligibility criteria for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, where athletes must be under 40 years old. Instead, he aims to secure a spot through two Olympic qualifying tournaments scheduled for the first and second quarters of 2024.
In addition to these qualifying tournaments, there’s a third pathway Pacquiao can explore: the Universality rule. Under this provision, the IOC can grant entry to athletes who haven’t qualified through traditional means. Nonetheless, the Universality rule offers only a limited number of slots—just nine, with four available for male boxers.
An associate close to Pacquiao confirmed his earnest desire to participate in the Olympics. It was also disclosed that Pacquiao’s team had reached out to Tolentino to kick-start the process. Tolentino, alongside ABAP Chairman Ricky Vargas, warmly welcomed Pacquiao’s aspiration and pledged support to aid his qualification journey.
However, the preparation journey won’t be without its challenges. Pacquiao’s current weight of 66 kgs requires him to decide between two categories—63.50 kgs or 71 kgs—which are part of the Paris boxing program. This decision will be pivotal as he tailors his training and conditioning to fit the chosen weight class.
The landscape of Olympic boxing has undergone a transformation in recent years. The inclusion of professional boxers in the Games has brought a new dynamic to the sport. In the Tokyo Olympics, 43 out of 186 boxers were professionals, showcasing their skills on the international stage. Notably, middleweight boxer Eumir Felix Marcial, a professional athlete, secured a bronze medal for the Philippines.
Marcial’s success story serves as an inspiration to Pacquiao. Marcial, who had delayed a professional fight to focus on the Olympics, is gearing up for the Hangzhou Games, where he will compete as a light heavyweight. This demonstrates the growing trend of athletes straddling the professional and Olympic realms, carving their own paths to success.
As the anticipation builds and discussions unfold, Manny Pacquiao’s Olympic journey promises to be a compelling narrative. Whether he achieves his dream of stepping onto the Olympic podium remains to be seen, but his determination and legacy in the boxing world are already etched in history. The sports world eagerly awaits the next chapters in this captivating saga.