Manny Pacquiao hopes to deliver a knockout blow next month in Tokyo when he joins hands with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in its bid to acquire the hosting rights for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The boxing star was initially tapped to make a presentation to the FIBA Central Board but the plan was shelved and Pacquiao will just instead be a part of the official delegation to the Aug. 7-9 meeting that will determine if the Philippines – or mighty China – will be the 2019 host.
Pacquiao, the second richest athlete in the world behind rival Floyd Mayweather, admits it will be an uphill battle but “the country’s strong basketball tradition and the people’s passion for the sport” could end up becoming a gamechanger.
“The world knows how passionate we are and that’s our main weapon,” said Pacquiao, who is aware of China’s massive global influence.
Pacquiao has a first-hand account of China’s might, having been the flag-carrier during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Through the years, Pacquiao has also visited key Chinese cities during his promotional tours of his fights several times and knows that the odds are stacked against the Philippines.
“We are the huge underdogs but we have proven many times that anything can happen,” said Pacquiao, obviously drawing inspiration from his countless victories in the ring against heavily-favored foes.
The 2019 worlds will feature 32 countries – from the usual 24 – and SBP chief Manny V. Pangilinan has chosen four venues to host the games.
The Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Mall of Asia Arena, the Smart Araneta Coliseum and a venue that will soon be built in Cebu City have all been identified as sites.
However, it is unclear if the government has officially thrown its support behind the SBP’s ambitious undertaking, a critical requirement in being awarded the hosting rights.
Although Pacquiao is coming off a loss, his stature and name recall in the international scene remain high and that’s the only thing that Pacquiao will bring to the table.