Manny Pacquiao, who announced his retirement in August 2021, plans to fight again, MP Promotions President Sean Gibbons told ESPN on Tuesday.
Pacquiao, who turned 44 in December, is engaged in talks for a welterweight fight against U.K. star Conor Benn, Gibbons said. That fight is being eyed for June 3 in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., sources said, though Benn is also considering two other opponents for his comeback bout: Kell Brook and Chris Eubank Jr.
Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters of all time, said he was retired after he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Yordenis Ugas in a welterweight title defense. The bout was Pacquiao's first since a split-decision victory over Keith Thurman in a July 2019 title fight.
Pacquiao was set to fight Errol Spence Jr. in August 2021, but after Spence withdrew with a detached retina, Pacquiao was forced to adjust to a new opponent on 11 days' notice.
One month later, Pacquiao, who was then a sitting senator in the Philippines, announced he was running for president of his native country.
"He retired for a minute to run for President of the Philippines, where he took a respectful third place," said Gibbons. "And after that he felt that his retirement was due to running for president, and now that [he wasn't elected], he wants to fight again and feels like he can do it at the highest level.
"Manny is an all-time great and he feels like he still has a lot of fight left in him and he still wants to compete at the highest level. And this fight [vs. Benn] was presented to him by [promoter] Eddie Hearn, and he agreed. Ball is in Eddie Hearn's court. Pacquiao ready to go."
Gibbons said the Pacquiao-Benn bout was first discussed in December, the same month Pacquiao returned to the ring for an exhibition match in Seoul vs. kickboxer DK Yoo. Now, Pacquiao wants to compete in legitimate boxing matches against the best in the world. Benn fits the bill. Before a positive test for the performance-enhancing drug clomiphene in August, Benn, 26, was rated in ESPN's top 10 at 147 pounds.
The son of British legend Nigel Benn, Conor impressed with a string of explosive knockouts. However, the British Boxing Board of Control prohibited him from competing in England after the fight vs. Eubank Jr. was scrapped due to the positive test. Last month, the WBC cleared Benn of intentional doping, but he remains unable to compete in the U.K.
"We are in the process of selecting Conor Benn's next opponent and have been in active talks with Manny Pacquiao's team," Hearn told ESPN. "We have had multiple site offers to stage the event and are looking to make an official announcement on Conor's next fight as early as next week."
Benn (21-0, 14 KOs) hasn't competed since April, when he scored a second-round TKO of Chris van Heerden. Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) is one of the most accomplished boxers of all time and one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport. He's the only male boxer ever to win titles in eight divisions, and his 2015 loss to Floyd Mayweather shattered revenue records that still stand.
Pacquiao has already come out of retirement once before. Following his April 2016 win over Tim Bradley in their third meeting, Pacquiao announced his retirement. Now, he seems prepared to return to the ring once more.
"Manny Pacquiao, this is what he's been doing his whole life, boxing, and he feels like he has a lot left to to give in boxing," Gibbons said. "He wants to fight; doesn't matter if it's Conor Benn or it's Kell Brook. Manny is a fighter, and it's what he wants to do: fight."