Manny Pacquiao's return to the ring is fast approaching. GETTY IMAGES

Three years after retiring from professional boxing, on 28 July, the multiple world champion, Manny Paquiao, will step back into the ring. He will face Japanese martial artist Chihiro Suzuki in Tokyo. A potential welterweight title fight with Mario Barrios is still on the cards, "There's still a lot to discuss," Paquiao said.

Pacquiao likes a challenge, he may be 45 years old, but he is still in great shape and always willing to take on new challenges. There is no denying that he wants to return to boxing. It has been his wish for a long time. Even after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) denied him the chance to participate in Paris 2024, he did not give up.

The IOC's decision hurt him. In February last year, Pacquiao admitted that he had given up trying to fight in Paris next year. This was after a special request from the Philippine federation to take part had been rejected. The IOC remained adamant about the 40-year age limit for Olympic boxers.

With his Olympic dream denied, Pacquiao continued with his training and his challenge. His return to the ring is a fact and, barring any unforeseen events, his comeback after a three-year retirement will take place next month. He has agreed to fight Japanese mixed martial artist Chihiro Suzuki in a three-round exhibition next month in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

Pacquiao and Suzuki during the promotion of the fight on 28 July. GETTY IMAGES
Pacquiao and Suzuki during the promotion of the fight on 28 July. GETTY IMAGES

Pacquiao admitted that he is in talks to fight American Barrios for the WBC welterweight title. However, the potential bout is still "a long way off". "We're still negotiating and talking about it. The fight has not happened yet," Pacquiao said. "That negotiation is still going on. It will be in December, November or December. There are still a lot of things to discuss and talk about."

Pacquiao retired weeks after losing his last professional fight to Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas in 2021. Though hw wasted no time in running for president of the Philippines barely a year later, losing the May 2022 election by a wide margin. He returned to the ring in December 2022 for an exhibition in Seoul against a South Korean YouTuber, and will now face Suzuki on 28 July in a 68kg, three-round, no-contest boxing match.

The legendary boxer insisted that the bout "is not an exhibition, this is a fight. We're looking for a knockout in this fight," he added. "There will be a lot of action in the ring. Of course I will do my best to win by knockout."

Pacquiao during his exhibition fight in Goyang, in 2022. GETTY IMAGES
Pacquiao during his exhibition fight in Goyang, in 2022. GETTY IMAGES

Although the Suzuki fight is motivating, what Pacquiao has set his mind on is getting competitive again and fighting for what he has always fought for: the titles. "The fight with Barrios could happen in November or December. It would take place in Las Vegas," Sean Gibbons, president of Manny Pacquiao Promotions, he told ESPN.

Pacquiao insists he has a lot of boxing left in him at the age of 45 and wants to continue making history as the Filipino occupies a privileged place in the world of boxing.  He is the only boxer to have won world titles in eight divisions. He won his first in 1998 at the age of 19 and his last against Thurman in July 2019, when he was 40.

He has an impressive record of 62-8-2 with 39 KOs.  One of his two losses came in the highest-grossing fight in boxing history. Pacquiao lost to unbeaten Floyd Mayweather in 2015. Barrios (29-2, 18 KOs) has been the welterweight champion since last September, and if the fight with Pacquiao goes ahead, it will be two fighters with a 16-year age difference. Barrios is 29 and Pacquiao is 45.