Exhibition fever has come to Manny Pacquiao.
The Filipino icon will take part in an exhibition match promoted by Japan’s mixed martial arts league, Rizin, in 2023, the fighter announced Saturday in Japan.
In a surprise appearance at Rizin FF 40 held at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the eight-division boxing champion signed with Rizin to face an as-yet-unconfirmed Japanese opponent in 2023.
During his in-ring presentation, Pacquiao said, “I came here as a guest a few months ago and tonight I have a very exciting announcement to make.” and Raijin’s chosen opponent. And I’m open and excited to fight a Japanese fighter. Thank you.”
When RIZIN president Nobuyuki Sakakibara asked Pacquiao if he was open to “any” Japanese opponent, Pacquiao said yes.
“Any Japanese opponent,” he said.
Pacquiao retired from the sport in 2021 to focus on his country’s presidential bid after losing a point to Yordenis Ugas. (He ended up quite short).
He returned to the ring, albeit in an exhibition, in December against South Korean mixed martial artist DK Yoo. Yu had little boxing experience, so the outing was almost silly.
At a press conference after the initial announcement, Pacquiao promised his next opponent would be a much better player than Yu.
Pacquiao said, “It’s good to have an exhibition fight in December.” [was] martial arts[ist] People who know nothing about boxing. That’s why he struggled in the ring. But the next exhibition match here in Japan will be different. Your opponent is probably a professional MMA fighter, so they know how to punch.
Rizin famously promoted an exhibition match between Pacquiao’s longtime nemesis Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Tenshin Nasukawa in 2018, with Mayweather stopping the kickboxing star in the first round.
Mayweather defeated Pacquiao in a hard-fought superfight in 2015. Pacquiao has repeatedly asked for a rematch.
Is a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao exhibition fight possible? Pacquiao took a diplomatic stance on the question.
“My plan today is one of a kind,” Pacquiao said.