Manny Pacquiao
Nike has ended its association with Manny Pacquiao after he made anti-gay comments during a TV interviewGetty Images

Sports giant Nike has terminated its contract with Manny Pacquiao after he described gay couples as "worse than animals." The first and only eight-weight division world champion has been a Nike athlete since 2006, but less than 24-hours after his offensive comments, the 37-year-old was dropped and his merchandise removed from the manufacturer's website.

Confirming the end of their association with the boxer, Nike issued a statement sternly condemning the sports star's comments. "We find Manny Pacquiao's comments abhorrent. Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community. We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao."

On 16 February, it was reported that Pacquiao had made the anti-gay comments during an interview with Filipino television station TV5. The Guardian published Pacquiao's comments on same-sex relationships in full. "It's common sense," he is quoted as saying. "Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals."

A devout Catholic, known for his stance on homosexuality, Pacquiao later issued an apology and insisted he was not "condemning LGBT," but admitted he was anti-gay marriage.

In a message on Twitter, the former P4P champ said: "I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. God Bless!" When asked for his reaction to Pacman's shocking comments, long-term rival Floyd Mayweather Jr told TMZ: "We should let people live the way they want to live,"

Nike's decision to cut ties with Pacquiao could encourage some of the 37-year-old's many other sponsors to follow suit. Pacquiao is the first and only eight-weight division world champion, winning a total of 10 world titles and is regarded as one of boxing's all-time greats. He faces American Timothy Bradley Jr in a world welterweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Casino on 9 April in Las Vegas.

He was expected to retire this year and is running for a seat in the senate of his native Philippines.