Pacquiao aiming to conquer political ring

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 04 2009 08:13 PM | Updated as of Sep 05 2009 09:35 AM

MANILA - Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao declared Friday he was determined to run for Congress next year despite a previous election defeat and a looming bout with three-time world champion Miguel Cotto.

Pacquiao, popularly known as "Pacman", told reporters he had enough time to train for his fight against Cotto in November and then campaign for a seat in the lower house, with national elections slated for May next year.

"It (my election campaign) will still push through. Nothing has changed," said Pacquiao, who has set up his own party, the People's Champ Movement.

Pacquiao said he had enough time for the Cotto fight despite numerous appearances in commercials, television shows and even an upcoming movie.

"I will start my training next week. I count the days. I need at least eight weeks of training before a fight," he said,

"Cotto cannot be underestimated. He is big, strong and he is a good boxer and he has shown what he can do in the ring. We can't take him lightly," said Pacquiao, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

"I will need discipline and training, I will need to be serious and study his style," he said.

Pacquiao, who turns 31 this year, made the comments even as he accepted another extra commitment -- this one a promotion in the military reserves.

At the army headquarters in Manila, Pacquiao, who was already a senior master sergeant in an army reserves division, was named a sergeant major.

The ceremony was attended by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and military chief General Victor Ibrado.

"I feel inspired and I am thankful for my promotion because now I can help more people," said Pacquiao, dressed in military fatigues.

Ibrado said Pacquiao's appointment was not merely ceremonial. "He will have actual duties as a sergeant major," he told AFP.

"It depends on whether he is available. Even if he is elected, he can still be a reservist," the general said.

Pacquiao's victories over such formidable opponents as Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz and Oscar de la Hoya have made him one of the Philippines' most popular personalities.

But he lost to a veteran politician in his first bid for Congress in 2007.

Political observers said voters liked him but did not want Pacquiao's attention diverted away from the boxing ring.