The final chapter in the storied career of Manny Pacquiao is about to begin. This weekend, the Filipino brawler is set to fight an Australian guy you’ve never heard of on ESPN. While his battle with Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) in Brisbane for the WBO welterweight title isn’t getting a ton of publicity, it could be a historic event. It might just be the last time we see Pacquiao in a boxing ring.
Pacquiao’s long-time trainer and surrogate father, Freddie Roach, has basically admitted his star pupil needs to dominate Horn to in order to justify continuing his career. The PacMan is still hoping for a return engagement with Floyd Mayweather, who bested him via unanimous decision two years ago.
Here’s what Roach had to say:
“Manny is in a must-win situation. He wants a rematch with Mayweather.
“With Mayweather, you have to look good against an opponent, you have to be impressive.
“If he struggles in this fight, it could be over. Depending on how he lost, I would probably encourage him to retire.”
Forget a loss, if he even looks average against Horn, the 38-year-old’s career could be over. There simply aren’t many fights out there that would make sense for Pacquiao at this point.
“I expect Manny’s best in this fight. I am looking for a big win here as we want to go on to bigger and better things.”
Since the Mayweather fight, Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) has dismantled both Timothy Bradley (for the third time) and Jessie Vargas, but neither bout has created the kind of buzz the Filipino superstar is used to. Now, at his age and with intense duties related to his job as a senator, the battle with Horn will likely tell us whether he can continue to fight.
From 2003 until his loss to Mayweather, Pacquiao was a relentless storm. He fought all comers, regardless of size or skill level. He didn’t carefully pick and choose his opponents, he always fought the best. And he gave us countless exciting, action-packed fights against some of the greats of his era. Along the way he earned titles in a record eight weight classes and became one of the sport’s legends. Now he’s trying to recapture some of that magic.
Thanks to his prohibitive duties in the senate, Pacquiao hasn’t been able to devote as much time to training. Roach was shocked how far behind his pupil was when they began preparing for the Horn fight. That’s not the recipe for a lights-out performance in the ring. This weekend Pacquiao needs to be at his best if he wants to inspiring confidence that he could actually challenge Mayweather. No one will want to see that fight unless they believe it could actually be a good matchup.
When the bell rings for Round 1 of Pacquiao-Horn Saturday night, no one knows what kind of fight we’re going to get. But you can be sure that however it turns out, you’ll be watching history. Manny Pacquiao’s last ride will have begun.