SAN DIEGO, June 30, 2017 – The last time eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao enterted the ring for a fight not on pay-per-view was his first of four bouts against Juan Manuel Marquez at super featherweight in March 2008. The last time he was on a “free” cable station in the U.S.? Never, not once.
Until Saturday, when promoter Bob Arum struck a two year broadcast deal with ESPN to bring significant fights back to the sports network, starting with the 38-year-old Pacquiao’s first appearance in the ring in 2017. Pacquiao (56-602, 38 KOs) will face relative unknown Jeff Horn of Australia (16-0-1, 11 KOs) for Pacquiao’s WBO world welterweight title. The card begins on ESPN Saturday at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT (also on ESPN Desportes).
Horn, a former schoolteacher who has faced limited opposition, is Pacquiao’s mandatory challenger. The bout takes place in Horn’s hometown, Brisbane. The “Battle of Brisbane” sold out Suncorp Stadium, with 60,000 fans expected.
Admittedly Pacquiao is past his prime. Nevertheless, he remains the number one ranked welterweight in the world. He showed exceptional vigor and energy in his last bout against Jessie Vargas in November 2016, scoring an early knockdown on the way to a definitive 12-round decision. After stepping away and “retiring” after his third fight with Timothy Bradley to serve in the Philippines Senate, Pacquiao seemed to have found the joy in boxing again.
So why aren’t fans more excited about this fight? Although the bout was made in early April, the Australia location kept it off the radar in the U.S. in large part. The American TV deal on ESPN was only announced 11 days ago. Observers expected Top Rank might offer the bout as a streaming pay per view. Instead, Arum made the bold move to bring world class boxing back to ESPN, which has broadcast fights with emerging prospects and a known name from time to time on its long running “Friday Night Fights.”
“Yes, this is a great opportunity to show the fans of boxing that we are still here and not done in boxing,” Pacquiao said about fighting on ESPN. “So this is a good chance and we believe that a lot of people will be watching, and we spoke to Bob (Arum) and we decided to give the people a chance to watch the fight on a free station in America.
“Bob and I decided to show this fight on free television so people can watch without paying the pay-per-view [fee] for the fight, because I have fought in America many times and people had to pay to watch the fight on television. For this fight, we are giving the people the chance to watch it for free. This is a very exciting fight because it is the first time I am fighting in this country.”
In addition to Pacquiao and Horn, Top Rank has confirmed an August 5 card featuring WBO Junior Lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko fighting Miguel Marriaga at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and an August 19 card featuring WBC/WBO Light Welterweight champion Terence Crawford facing IBF/WBA champion Julius Indongo at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
People who still have a hangover from the fight with Floyd Mayweather need to pour a drink, watch Saturday, and get over it. MayPac was four years ago, fight fans. Mark my words: it won’t be too long before fans will realize they missed seeing this great champion before he makes his final exit from boxing. Pacquiao is past his prime; he and trainer Freddie Roach have been candid about it. But Pacquiao is still considered one of the top ten pound for pound fighters in the world, and it’s for a good reason.
Here we are again on the brink of a Pacquiao bout, wondering whether Pacquiao’s political activities and religious convictions are too distracting for him to train and focus properly on the man in front of him in the ring. Pacquiao was able to stay and train in the Phillippines for this bout. Trainer Freddie Roach said he saw the “old Manny” in training, enthusiastic and listening to his favorite Shakira songs over and over, laughing that those songs are now in his head to stay. “We are still here and we are not done in boxing,” says Pacquiao.
Pacquiao has promised he’ll give the fans plenty of entertainment. “He’s a good fighter and I want to put on a good show,” Pacquiao said. “I will do my best to win. If the knockout comes, it’s a bonus.”
Jeff Horn, a 2012 Australian Olympian, is nine years younger and three inches taller than Pacquiao. Trainer Glenn Rushton says Jeff “has a jaw of granite. I’ve never seen him hurt throughout his amateur and professional career.” But Horn has never faced the likes of PacMan, a southpaw who even at 38 years old has impressive speed and nimble footwork. He is able to launch punches from unexpected angles; unless you’re Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao will get to you and he can still punch with power as Jessie Vargas and Tim Bradley recently learned.
Horn has a total of 94 professional rounds; Pacquiao has 443 rounds. In this fight, the mileage will count. Pacquiao will be smart to attack early and not let Horn get any bearings. Even though Pacquiao hasn’t scored a knockout since his fight with Ricky Hatton in 2009, he may have a chance to add one to his record here.
Does Horn have any chance? Every boxer has a chance, but Horn has no more than this. Expect him to look a lot like Chris Algieri, who lost badly to Pacquiao despite his combat sports experience. Algieri could never figure out or catch up with Pacquiao. He was outclassed.
Pacquiao weighed in at a fit 146 pounds Friday. Horn weighed in right at the 147 pound limit, later admitting he was a bit drained making weight. Not how you want to go into a fight against an eight-division world champion.
The ESPN broadcast offers a preview show at 6 pm featuring middleweight Shane Mosley Jr. (10-1, 7 KOs), son of former three-division world champion Shane Mosley, versus David Toussaint of Australia (10-0, 8 KOs) in an eight round bout. The main broadcast features Irish sensation Michael Conlan, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist (2-0, 2 KOs), facing another Australian, Jarrett Owen (5-4-3, 2 KOs), in an six-round bout. The co-main event offers Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines (26-1-1, 17 KOs) in his second defense at super flyweight against Teiru Kinoshita of Japan (25-1-1, 8 KOs).
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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