Philippine boxing legend and 2022 presidential hopeful Manny Pacquiao said on Wednesday that he is hanging up his gloves after a glittering decades-long career in the ring.
The eight-division world champion and senator, who has his sights set on a high-stakes rumble to replace President Rodrigo Duterte, said quitting boxing was the “hardest decision” of his life.
“It is difficult for me to accept that my time for me as a boxer is over,” Pacquiao, 42, said in a video message on Twitter that quickly went viral.
“Today I am announcing my retirement.”
The announcement comes weeks after Pacquiao lost his last professional fight, against Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao, who entered politics in 2010 as a congressman before being elected to the Senate, said last week he will make a tilt for the country’s highest office.
Pacquiao, a married father of five, thanked his millions of fans around the world, and paid special tribute to his long-time trainer Freddie Roach who he described as “my family, a brother and a friend”.
The decision ends weeks of speculation that Pacquiao was planning to retire.
In the video message, Pacquiao said boxing had given him “the chance to fight my way out of poverty” and “the courage to change more lives”.
“I will never forget what I have done and accomplished in my life. I can’t imagine I just heard the final bell,” Pacquiao, considered one of the best boxers ever, said.
Pacquiao is idolised by many in the Philippines both for his punching power and rise from poverty to the peak of world boxing.
But his support of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs and homophobic views have drawn plenty of detractors.
As he prepares to register as a presidential candidate, Pacquiao has vowed to tackle poverty and corruption in a bid to win over voters with his rags-to-riches story.
After two terms as a congressman and one as a senator, Pacquiao’s ambition is not unrealistic in a country famed for its celebrity-obsessed politics.
But victory is far from assured.
Fans see Pacquiao as living proof that success is possible for anyone who works hard, no matter their origins.
But critics accuse the high-school dropout of lacking intellect and being a frequent no-show in the senate, raising questions about his ability to run the country of 110 million people.
Less than a year out from the elections, Pacquiao has risked political capital in a public stoush with Duterte, who rivals the boxer for the affections of many Filipinos and previously mentioned him as a possible successor.
He has also stirred controversy by backing Duterte’s deadly drug war, which rights groups say has killed tens of thousands of mostly poor men and sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.