Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is trading in his gloves for… gaming consoles.
The newly retired athlete has launched his own electronic sports or esports team, called “Team Pacquiao GG.”
“GG” stands for “good game” — something players say to each other at the end of a game as a show of sportsmanship.
“Esports is the future and I’m really happy to be part of this quest to create world-class content creators [and] Filipino gamers and develop them into professional athletes,” Pacquiao said at a glitzy press launch over the weekend held at the City of Dreams casino in the Philippine capital.
Pacquiao teamed up with London-based esports group Veloce to build “the pound for pound esports heavyweights of Southeast Asia.” The plan is to develop a national gaming team for the Philippines, whom they will field in competitions all across Asia.
Veloce, which already runs 10 professional esports teams, says it has been looking for the right opportunity to expand into Southeast Asia for some time.
“Last year, we approached Manny Pacquiao and his team, with the proposition of joining forces to create something that’s never been done before within Southeast Asia and the Philippines,” Ryan Tveter, chief development officer at Veloce, said in a recorded message. “Something that tells the story of Manny’s life, of inspiring a nation, giving back so generously to those in need, and accomplishing so much in the ring as an 8-division world champion boxer.”
It’s been quite a trying year for the 42-year-old Filipino though — a 12-time world champion widely regarded as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.
Now a senator in the Philippines, Pacquiao was caught up in an ugly political row for months that ended with him being ousted as the president of the ruling party. Weeks later, he returned to the boxing ring for the final time, before a packed arena in Las Vegas, only to lose in a major upset to Cuban Yordenis Ugas.
Shortly after, Pacquiao announced his retirement from boxing, to focus on his campaign for the Philippine presidency in 2022. But latest surveys peg him in fourth place out of six presidential candidates, with just 9% of voter support.
Still, Pacquiao’s latest bet on esports could be a knockout. Research firm Newzoo projects esports revenue to cross the US$1 billion mark this year, thanks to advertising and sponsorships. It also says viewership has spiked in many places because of pandemic-related lockdown measures, which add up to a livestream audience of just under 730 million people as of the end of 2021.
“Most Filipinos identify video gaming as a hobby and possible addiction for younger people that must be supervised. But not anymore,” Pacquiao said. “Esports is not just an online phenomenon but a legitimate, growing sporting industry around the world with a lot of job and business opportunities.”
Team Pacquiao GG (TPGG) says it will produce events and competitions as well as compete in popular games Mobile Legends, Valorant, Call of Duty, League of Legends: Wild Rift, Halo and even the blockchain-based game Axie Infinity. Its professional esports teams will be launched in the second quarter of 2022. In the meantime, it’s planning to roll out content and merchandise.
Veloce is a partner of blockchain gaming unicorn Animoca Brands, which in turn has invested in major non-fungible token (NFT) projects like Axie Infinity and OpenSea. Animoca is making big plays in the metaverse, including building a K-pop inspired world.
Pacquiao is no stranger to esports, having been a brand ambassador for multiplayer game Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) since last year. MLBB was one of the featured titles when esports made its debut in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, in which the Philippines bagged the gold.
But also in 2019, Pacquiao launched, with much fanfare, his own cryptocurrency token called “Pac Coin” or “Pac Token,” in partnership with Singaporean exchange GCOX. The idea was to enable fans to buy merchandise or bid for meet-and-greets with the sports star through the tokens. But two years later, the trail has gone cold, with the GCOX official Twitter and Medium pages not having posted anything in all of 2021. It has been inactive for over nine months on Facebook as well. Neither is there any market information on Pac Coin on its website. The company has not responded to inquiries by Forkast.News as of press time.
TPGG didn’t disclose how much Pacquiao is investing — or getting paid.
“We have a lot in store for the community and I can’t wait to be a part of this journey with Team Pacquiao,” Pacquiao said. “This is only just the beginning.”