MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' election commission on Tuesday said it may bar local broadcasts of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao's bid to win back the world welterweight title next month because it could give him an unfair advantage over rival candidates in an election a month later.
The 37-year-old former world champion will fight American Timothy Bradley, reigning WBO welterweight champion, for a third time in April, exactly a month before he contests an election for one of 12 vacant seats in the upper house of Congress.
The bout is being billed as Pacquiao's last fight, as the sporting hero brings down the curtain on a career that saw him crowned world champion in eight different weight divisions.
"We have some form of control, or regulatory supervision, over entities which have a franchise during the election period," Andres Bautista, chairman of the Commission on Elections, said
Bautista said the commission could prohibit public broadcasts in the Philippines of the fight.
"That could be possible, but as to whether we can stop him from fighting, that's different."
The poll body has given Pacquiao, a two-term congressman, five days to comment on the issue before making a final ruling on whether the bout violates election rules.
Bautista said the poll body's law department has presented several options for Pacquiao, including a partial restriction on the airing of his fight.
Earlier, Pacquiao said it was difficult to postpone the bout and pointed out that he had also fought a month before polling in past elections.
Last month, a left-wing candidate and rival of Pacquiao wanted the poll body to declare the boxing match a violation of election rules as it would give the boxer an undue advantage over other candidates in the race to become a senator.
Last month, Pacquiao lost a sponsorship deal with Nike Inc, as the world's largest sportswear-maker cancelled its contract with the Filipino boxer after he described gays as "worse than animals".
Pacquiao remains popular in the Philippines, regardless, and opinion polls rank him 8th among four dozen candidates running for Senate seats.
On May 9, more than 54 million people in the Philippines will vote for a president, vice-president, 300 lawmakers and thousands of local government posts.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)