BEVERLY HILLS - While Manny Pacquiao's political career became a priority after he announced his "retirement" from the ring in April, he says the lure of continuing his journey in boxing ultimately led to his comeback.
Seven months after defeating American Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas in his much trumpeted farewell to the sport, the Filipino southpaw will return to the same city in November to challenge World Boxing Organisation welterweight champion Jessie Vargas.
Though Pacquiao is an eight-division world champion and one of the greatest boxers ever, the whole experience of preparing for that Nov. 5 fight feels strange as he will be competing for the first time as an elected senator in his homeland.
"This is very different," a smartly dressed Pacquiao, 37, told Reuters after holding a joint news conference with American Vargas in the chic surrounds of The Beverly Hills Hotel.
"This is my first fight since I was elected as a senator and it's a big challenge for me to try to get the belt and become a champion again, to win the fight as a senator.
"It's also a big challenge for me to get back in the ring again and to prove that I can still manage serving the people and also be a successful boxer."
Pacquiao (58-6-2) was elected to the Philippines' senate in May.
Asked what had prompted his decision to come out of retirement, Pacquiao smiled: "The main reason is because when I hung up my gloves, I realized that the sport that I loved, I was no longer active with that.
"And then I realized that boxing still liked me and I liked boxing so why am I not continuing my journey in boxing? So I changed my mind and decided to continue my journey.
"I want to fight more fights after November. I am already satisfied and happy with what I have done in boxing. Now I want to continue and give honor to my country."
For Pacquiao's experienced trainer, Freddie Roach, the Filipino's abrupt U-turn on his retirement decision was always likely.
"Manny still knows what he does best, and that's boxing so him making a comeback this quickly wasn't a big surprise to me," the bespectacled Roach told Reuters.
"I know he still loves boxing, he still has a lot of fight left in him. In his last fight, he showed a lot of the old Manny. I liked that a lot and I hope it carries over to this fight."
Pacquiao's unanimous decision win over Bradley in April was his first fight in nearly a year after his loss to Floyd Mayweather.
The 27-year-old Vargas (27-1) beat fellow American Sadam Ali in March to claim the WBO welterweight crown and has won 10 of his bouts via a knockout or stoppage, with his only defeat coming via a points loss to Bradley in June 2015.