Marco Rubio dishes on his meeting with boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao

Jamie Weinstein | Senior Writer

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent last week boosting his foreign policy credentials touring and meeting with leaders in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, but all The Daily Caller really cared about during its interview with the senator was his meeting with boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, a world boxing champion in a record eight-weight divisions, who also happens to be a Filipino congressman, had a tete-a-tete with the Republican senator during Rubio’s visit to Manila.

“Obviously we talked a little boxing — I’m a boxing fan, and he’s a boxer,” Rubio told TheDC about the meeting, where the senator gave Pacquiao an autographed copy of his autobiography, and Pacquiao gave Rubio a figurine of himself. “So I tried to see if I could get any inside information from him whether the Mayweather fight will ever happen.”

For years, boxing fans have been salivating over a potential matchup between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, the world’s highest paid athlete and boxing’s pound-for-pound king. Despite the fact the fight will almost certainly be the most lucrative in boxing history, so far the two camps have been unable to seal a deal. So did Rubio find out any inside information?

Pacquiao “said he wants to fight,” Rubio said, noting that he didn’t exactly learn anything new on the issue. Rubio was quick to add that his conversation with Pacquiao didn’t just focus on boxing.

“But obviously we talked about an issue he is engaged in — and I am as well — which is human trafficking,” Rubio said. “It’s an issue he’s become involved in through his service in the Congress over there, and so we exchanged numbers and potentially may be able to work on something together at some point when he is here in the States or somewhere else. I mean, it’s an issue he’s made a priority.”

Another priority of Pacquiao’s might be to set himself right with the tax man. He has recently been accused of not paying hefty tax bills, both in his native Philippines and in the U.S., where he owns a home in Los Angeles. According IRS documents obtained by TMZ, Pacquiao allegedly owes north of $18 million dollars. Of course, the champ says the issue is being handled — but did he bring up his tax problem with the powerful Florida senator?

“No, he didn’t,” Rubio said. “And I’m sure he’s got lawyers handling that. And I’m sure he’ll get paid up there. That’s why he’s fighting again.”

“I don’t know how big his take will be for this next fight — I don’t think it is pay per view — I think it is a Showtime fight,” Rubio continued.

TheDC informed Rubio that that the fight is actually on HBO Pay Per View and Pacquiao is set to make $20 million dollars — plus a piece of the pay per view upside.

“Ahh, he’ll probably have to pay it all to the IRS then,” Rubio said. “But, I mean, the big pay day, which I think erodes every year that goes by, is the Mayweather fight. And that would have been the biggest fight in history two years ago.”

Rubio’s right. As time marches on, Pacquiao-Mayweather becomes less interesting — especially after Pacquiao was brutally knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. But the fight still remains the most desired fight in boxing. If the fight is ever to happen, it definitely won’t happen the first half of this year. Pacquiao is set to avenge his controversial loss — perhaps the greatest robbery in recent boxing history — to Timothy Bradley in April, and Mayweather is scheduled to fight the first weekend in May, though his opponent has not yet been named.

“Pacquiao needs to win. If he loses again, that fight ain’t going to matter,” Rubio said, continuing his musings on a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao super fight.

Rubio, of course, wasn’t in Asia to talk boxing, as important a reason to be in Asia as that might be. As the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Rubio wanted to get the sense of what problems America’s allies in the region face — and, perhaps, boost his foreign policy credentials for a possible 2016 presidential run.

“The overriding issue in the region is China and China’s rise and the direction that they’re headed,” he said. “Particularly in Japan and in the Philippines, they are convinced that China’s headed in a very negative direction.”

Offered an opportunity to criticize President Obama’s leadership in Asia, Rubio didn’t really bite.

“By and the large, I think they seem pleased by the bipartisan nature of our Asian policy,” he said of the leaders he met with. “There is some concern that portends to a U.S. that will perhaps be less engaged around the world and what it means to our security assurances. That wasn’t something that anybody dwelt on, but they are watching this, and they are watching U.S. foreign policy signals to see, you know, if in fact we are heading in a direction we are less willing to engage on behalf of our alliances.”

But to those non-interventionists in and outside his own party who believe America should remove bases and assets from the region, Rubio pushed back.

“I would point to the fact that we make these products, and we want to be able to sell them to people,” he said. “We need markets around the world that will buy the things we build, the things we invent, the services we provide. We want tourists to come to the U.S. and leave money here. All of that requires economic growth abroad and particularly in countries that are free enterprise economies and democracies. And for these countries, if they feel threatened or their security is under duress, those economies can’t grow and they can’t become trading partners of ours. They can’t become our customers and our clients. They can’t become tourists here. They can’t become investors here. We can’t go invest and make money over there. So those security alliances are important.”

He also pointed to the importance of maintaining America’s naval presence in the region.

“And the last thing I would say is, you know, you can make the greatest product in the world — you can build all the American cars you want — you’ve got to ship them to your destination,” he said. “And it wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t freely ship things freely on the seas. Parts of the world were dominated by one power or another and they used to torpedo merchant ships. And what’s prevented that from happening over the last 60-70 years has been the United States Navy. It has opened up and provided for freedom of the seas so that now you can invent products and ship them abroad and sell it to other markets and make money. If you retreat from these bases the U.S. can’t operate in those places.”

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