MANILA (AFP) – Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao said Thursday he was still “hungry” to fight, despite a dalliance with professional basketball that has had his team worried sick.
The 35-year-old, who has world titles in eight weight divisions under his belt, made a lacklustre pro ball debut on Sunday, a month before his World Boxing Organization title defense against undefeated American Chris Algieri in Macau.
“I’m still hungry and I’m doing what I did before,” the Filipino said in a teleconference call with the press from his training camp in the southern Philippine city of General Santos.
“What we’re doing right now is to get back the hungriness and the focus and the killer instinct that the people want.”
Pacquiao said basketball, the number one sport in the Philippines, was his other love – but that he is fully focused on boxing at the moment.
“Basketball is also good to have, you know, footwork and balancing. It helps a lot,” he said, describing it as his “cross-training” activity.
His US promoter Bob Arum said he had got wind of Pacquiao’s plans to play in the professional Philippine Basketball Association beforehand and admitted: “I wasn’t very happy.”
“Professional basketball, no matter where the country it is that you play it, is a rugged sport and a player can turn an ankle very, very easily,” said Arum.
“NBA (US National Basketball Association) players are fantastic physical specimens and yet they get injured all the time,” he added.
“An injury would have really wreaked havoc with the fight, so I was not very pleased.”
But Arum said Pacquiao assured him he will play no more pro ball until after the Macau bout.
“After the fight… if he wants to try out for New York Knicks that’s OK with me.”
Arum said that unlike with other fighters who did “crazy things” like riding motorbikes in their spare time, he had not found it necessary to try and prevent Pacquiao from engaging in other risky activities.
“With Manny we have a different kind of relationship, one based on mutual respect and mutual trust, and so we won’t put it in a contract,” Arum added.
Pacquiao went scoreless in his pro ball debut on Sunday and turned the ball over twice in nearly seven minutes of action as the starting off-guard and playing coach of the Kia team.
The dismal numbers had fans doubting the 1.69-metre (5-foot, 7-inch) rookie’s ability to play at that level.
He faces Algieri in Macau on November 23.