Uber-promoter Bob Arum wanted Manny Pacquiao to appear on his April 14 card in Las Vegas in support of the WBO title fight between title-holder Jeff Horn and challenger Terence Crawford. Arum had Pacquiao pencilled in to fight former WBO 140-pound champion Mike Alvarado in a 10-round contest.
The fight is off. Pacquiao pulled out, reportedly because he was insulted at the thought of being reduced to a second banana after all he’s accomplished and all the money he’s put in Arum’s coffers. He reportedly is exploring a match with Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse, a bout that would be held in late April or early May in Kuala Lampur. Matthysse won the vacant WBO world welterweight title on Jan. 27 with an eighth round stoppage of Tewa Kiram.
To someone unfamiliar with the inner workings of boxing, this rift would appear to have an easy fix. Simply substitute Matthysse for Alvarado. This would have the added benefit of giving Arum’s show — a pay-per-view event on the ESPN platform — a brighter glow. PacMan would be afforded the opportunity to win yet another title and Lucas Matthysse has a larger following than Mike Alvarado.
But this isn’t going to happen. Foremost, Matthysse, who is tied to Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, has the leverage to command a much higher purse than Alvarado who is in Arum’s Top Rank stable. Record-wise, there isn’t much to choose between the 37-year-old Alvarado (38-4, 26 KOs) and the 35-year-old Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs), both of whom are on the wrong side of the hill, but the Argentine packs a harder punch and would be a bigger threat to the 39-year-old Pacquiao. And if Matthysse should win, that would spoil Arum’s master plan. He envisions a farewell fight for Pacquiao against Vasyl Lomachenko or Crawford, both Top Rank fighters, an event that would reel in a lot of moolah.
It’s easy to feel for Pacquiao who began his career as a 16-year-old carrying 106 pounds and went on to become a global superstar and a national hero in his native Philippines, A lineal champion in five weight classes, the only boxer to hold this distinction, his 2015 match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. stands as the most lucrative fight in history. No, PacMan isn’t the same fighter that blew away Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto in consecutive bouts, but perhaps he warrants top billing whoever he fights next, if only as a token of respect.
Pacquaio has something in common with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. who appeared in supporting bouts after some folks in the media took to calling him JC Superstar.
Chavez won his first title at 130 pounds and successfully defended the title nine times, but he didn’t truly arrive until he moved up to lightweight and gave WBA champ Edwin Rosario a boxing lesson in a fight where the odds were close to “pick-‘em.” In his next bout, Chavez, now sporting a 58-0 record, defended his title against Rudolfo Aguilar. The match played out underneath the welterweight title fight between Marlon Starling and Mark Breland.
Chavez was 73-0 and his halo was brighter thanks to his sensational victory over Meldrick Taylor when he risked his IBF and WBC world 140-pound titles against 36-1 John Duplessis in 1991. This wasn’t the featured bout. The welterweight title match between Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker trumped it, as did the feature attraction, Tyson vs. Ruddock in the first of their two encounters.
Two years later, Chavez, who was under the grip of Don King, met Terrence Alli in a supporting bout to the heavyweight title fight between Lennox Lewis and Tony Tucker and later on, when he risked his 86-0-1 record against Frankie Randall, it was considered a co-feature alongside Felix Trinidad vs. Hector Camacho.
The rap on Chavez was that he held himself back as a money-earner by refusing to learn English, which would have afforded him exposure on English-language TV talk shows and broadened his fan base. (The great champion knew more English than he let on, but was too much the perfectionist to speak English in front of a microphone.) To casual fans in the English-speaking world, Chavez was an acquired taste. To get their attention, he had to build his record up to the point where one could not help but take notice.
Chavez had it better than some of the great champions of yesteryear who barnstormed between title fights. Willie Pep’s signature win was his 15-round decision over defending featherweight champion Sandy Saddler in their second meeting. At that point, Pep’s record stood 137-2-1. He had 15 fights before meeting Saddler again, 13 of which were non-title fights.
John Henry Lewis, who unfortunately couldn’t draw flies, had 45 non-title fights in 31 months after winning the world light heavyweight title in 1936. Lewis, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994, was the reigning champion when he abandoned the division. He finished his career with an even 100 victories, many against much heavier men.
We seriously doubt that Manny Pacquaio will reconsider and appear on Arum’s April 14 show. Insiders report that he hasn’t started training and that he has had no recent communication with long time trainer Freddie Roach. But if were to reconsider, he would have one more thing in common with the great JC Superstar and that’s pretty good company.
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