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Manny Pacquiao's brief retirement was no surprise

Manny Pacquiao finished his training camp at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles with trainer Freddie Roach. Mikey Williams/Top Rank

LAS VEGAS -- Even Top Rank’s Bob Arum, whose job is to sell events, refused to promote Manny Pacquiao’s third fight against Timothy Bradley Jr. in April as his final one, even though Pacquiao said he would retire following the bout.

Sure enough, after Pacquiao cruised to a lopsided decision win in a stellar performance -- one of Pacquiao’s best in years -- he nonetheless announced his retirement and returned home to the Philippines to campaign for a senate seat.

Few believed the retirement would stick, including Arum, who said he did not want to promote Pacquiao-Bradley III as Pacman’s final fight because he knew the critics would be all over him for false advertising when Pacquiao made his inevitable comeback.

Sure enough, Pacquiao, who won the senate seat and has been busy working on the 15 committees he serves on, elected to return to boxing and juggle two jobs at once.

Why stop my boxing career? So, I changed my mind and decided to continue my journey,” Pacquiao said. “Public service is my calling but boxing is my passion. I realized this summer I was not ready to retire from the ring. I made history when I became the first congressman to win a world title and now that the good people of the Philippines have elected me to the senate, I want to make more history by becoming the first senator to win a world title.”

He proclaimed that not only did he miss boxing, but he wanted to keep earning millions of dollars so he could continue giving away huge amounts to help his people, whether it is literally handing out cash, paying for outboard motors for a fleet of fishing boats or his recent project of building a housing subdivision and then giving away the homes.

Pacquiao’s retirement did not last long. He announced he would return in September, just five months after he walked away, and he will be back in the ring Saturday night (Top Rank PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the Thomas & MackCenter in Las Vegas to challenge Jessie Vargas for the welterweight title he once held.

“I want to prove that I am still one of the best pound-for-pound fighters,” said Pacquiao, the only boxer to win world titles in eight weight divisions. “I feel I still have a lot to prove. I am not done with boxing. I will continue to keep fighting as long as I love boxing and boxing still loves me. I do not feel old. I feel like I am still 27.”

Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs), however, is 37 and in the twilight of his career. It is Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) who is 27 and in his prime, but Pacquiao remains an outstanding fighter, as his performance against Bradley in April clearly showed.

“I felt very good in that Bradley fight,” Pacquiao said. “It is not the reason I continued to fight, though. I came back because I felt lonely, not training with my friends, and I felt empty and I realized that I could still train and work so that’s why I decided to fight again.”

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer, said Pacquiao has trained as well as he ever has. He said Pacquiao is hurting him in their sessions.

“In this training camp he has been using his speed and his combinations, not just single-punching, and he has looked very good and it is probably the best training camp he has had in a long time,” Roach said. “I look forward to Manny fighting in this style.

“He has been very aggressive in his sparring -- throwing combinations and he seems to be getting back to the old Manny -- really quick combinations, in and out, flurries and very hard punching. He has been hurting me while on the mitts. My shoulder is a little messed up. [Assistant Buyboy Fernandez's] hand and shoulders are messed up. We’ll hang in there, but holding the mitts for Manny is not the most fun thing in the world to do. It’s hard, hard work.

“If he carries that over into the fight I think he will knock somebody out. He hasn’t knocked out any 147-pounders in a while but, again, they are much bigger guys and they can take better shots, but I feel that with the combinations and the way he has been training he has been very close to knocking guys out in the gym and so forth.”