By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Eight-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao believes he has two or three years of fighting left before he quits the sport and still retains the hope of securing a bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Two straight defeats, the second a brutal sixth round knockout by old foe Juan Manuel Marquez in December, prompted pundits and fans to suggest retirement for the 34-year-old Filipino.
But he will step back in the ring after an extended break on November 24 to take on American Brandon Rios for a first fight in Macau, keen to re-establish himself as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
"Great opportunity for me to give a good show for the people, to get back my name into the top of boxing," the Filipino congressman told reporters in Singapore on Friday on the latest leg of the promotional tour for the bout.
"Brandon Rios is a good boxer, tough opponent and I believe we can give a good fight. Especially his style and my style it is very good to fight each other, we can create a lot of action in the ring."
The 27-year-old Rios, an aggressive former lightweight world champion known as 'Bam Bam', will provide a stern test for Pacquiao although he lacks the box office numbers that a fifth bout with Marquez or a first with Mayweather could bring.
Pacquiao, who said three years ago his mother had given her blessing for him to fight once more, remains open to both options and has no plans to call it quits any time soon.
"I'm not really sure (how many fights left) as long as I can still fight I can fight. In my mind right now, maybe I can still fight maybe two to three years from now," said Pacquiao, who has amassed a 54-5-2 record with 38 knockouts.
"I tell you frankly, honestly in myself I can still fight and I feel strong. If there is something wrong in my body or something wrong in my boxing skill I have to think about that and think about retirement.
"But since I lost the last fight, I never feel something in my body, I still feel strong and I can still fight."
Pacquiao, whose power punching from both hands and lightning speed helped him win titles from flyweight through to light middleweight, said he had trained every day since the Marquez defeat and that his body was 'addicted to exercise'.
But having achieved so much already and with the lucrative Mayweather clash appearing destined to never happen, talk returns to retirement.
His Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who also represents Rios, acknowledged politics and not boxing was Pacquiao's main focus.
"What is the end game with Manny? The end game is to run and win for the highest possible office in the Philippines, boxing is just a way-station for Manny Pacquiao," the veteran promoter told reporters. "I think he has much to offer his country.
"He will know when to call it quits in boxing and it may very well be before a normal fighter would call it quits because he has what I think are more important things to accomplish."
For now though, fighting in Asia and putting on an entertaining show for the high number of Filipino fans expected to take the two-hour flight to Macao is Pacquiao's focus.
China's gambling enclave also means no long haul flying to America for training, but Pacquiao acknowledged the 1130 a.m. local fight time to cater for the U.S. television audience would be slightly problematic and require 0400 wake up calls.
Pacquiao, though, made strong hints about future fights in the region instead of America, with Arum touting the Philippines and Singapore as possible venues.
A move that Arum hoped might finally lead to Mayweather, one of the true greats of the sport, getting in the ring with Pacquiao.
"Never say never," Arum said of the possible match up.
"I think when Floyd realizes the economic benefits of doing a fight in Asia, maybe at the new Singapore stadium ... maybe that will open up a dialogue for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in Asia."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)