Boxing Icon Manny Pacquiao Now Belts Out Love Songs

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Imagine Mike Tyson as Speaker of the House, or Evander Holyfield crooning drippy love songs. Yeah, these are strange images. But for Manny Pacquiao, the ferocious Filipino fighting icon, juggling a career as boxer-politician-singer seems to be working out. (via Wall Street Journal)

With a song that is now topping the charts, we may be seeing more of Pacquiao in a completely different arena—one that requires a solid set of pipes, not fists.

Pacquiao, known as “Pac-Man” (or even better, “The Destroyer”), rose to worldwide fame in 2008 after “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya waved the white flag after their fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Today, the current WBO Welterweight world champ is dripping with titles and serving as an elected congressman in the archipelagic nation from which he hails, representing the province of Sarangani in the Philippines.

The 32-year-old boxer, part of TIME’s 2009 “People Who Mattered” and one of last year’s TIME 100, is now showing the world that his talent goes far beyond just packing a punch. He’s become a professional singer. It may sound like an odd career add-on for the blood-soaked eight-division world champ, but when Pacquiao sings, he’s sweet, emotive—even syrupy. And when he sang a song in 2009 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, pop singer and songwriter Dan Hill took notice.

(PHOTOS: The Rise of Manny Pacquiao)

After Hill reached out to Pacquiao, the duo met up and agreed to produce a record and documentary, the Wall Street Journal reports. “It was like hanging out with Elvis meets Muhammad Ali,” Hill says of the meeting.

Pacquiao recorded with Hill last fall while simultaneously training for his November fight with American boxer Antonio Margarito (whom Pacquiao brutally bludgeoned to the point that his swollen opponent underwent surgery). The song Pacquiao recorded, “Sometimes When We Touch,” is a re-boot of the 1977 ballad written by Hill that once topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and still serves as the writer’s biggest hit.

Known more for smashing, not “touching,” Pacquiao’s version of “Sometimes When We Touch” is nonetheless gaining momentum. This week, it reached the No. 7 slot on the “Secondary Adult Contemporary Chart,” a weekly list published by Billboard magazine.

It’s still too early to predict if Pacquiao can enter the ring as a successful vocalist because “even if you’re Katy Perry or Justin Bieber, you have to work radio like crazy,” says Hill. But for now, the charismatic crooner, who takes on Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez this fall, is relishing in the fact that his romantic ballad has nabbed a single-digit spot.

MORE: Top 10 Boxing Matches of All Time

Kai Ma is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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