Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn: Bob Arum’s “Morality Play”
by Frank Lotierzo
MANNY PACQUIAO EYEING JEFF HORN -- If the rumors are true and WBO welterweight title-holder Manny Pacquiao 59-6-2 (38) ends up fighting little-known Australian Jeff Horn 16-0 (11) in his next fight, it’s a definite switch in strategy for Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum. As of this writing, the tentative date for Pacquiao-Horn is April 23rd and the bout will be contested in Brisbane, Australia.
“Manny has seen some of Jeff Horn’s previous fights, we’ve shown him tapes,” said Arum. “Manny thinks Jeff is a very live fighter — in the sense he’s a come-ahead guy and he says it will be a tremendous fight and a good challenge for him. Manny is on board for this fight?we are very excited about this fight.”
Well, if you’ve seen any video of Horn, Arum is right; he’s definitely a wildcard choice for Pacquiao. He looked good in stopping Ali Funeka. He also stopped the washed-up Randall Bailey. Bailey dropped him, but Randall hits three times harder than Pacquiao. And Horn got up to win. So maybe Horn, the WBO’s second ranked contender, is a little dangerous for Manny, who just turned 38 years old last month. We’ve recently seen one straight-ahead puncher in Joe Smith Jr upset the apple cart of an older guy in Bernard Hopkins, so you can never be 100% certain how these "easy" fights will turn out.
Since October of last year, the rumors coming from the money people in Las Vegas have inferred that Mayweather-Pacquiao II was in the works for Cinco de Mayo weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. However, with so much chatter pointing to Pacquiao fighting Jeff Horn in April, if Manny is going to touch gloves with Mayweather a second time, it won’t happen until later this year, perhaps sometime between September and November. My hunch is Floyd is playing hardball with the money and Arum is looking at other options. And Bob isn’t quite ready to cash Pacquiao out and turn Terence Crawford loose on him yet.
Last year Arum’s Top Rank promotions and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom promotions were the two most active promotion companies in boxing, with both having an eye on raising boxing’s popularity on a global basis. Since his first bout with Marco Antonio Barrera in November of 2003, Pacquiao has fought 26 times, with only two of those bouts taking place outside the United States. What a great morality play it is looking like, if in fact Arum makes the Pacquiao-Horn fight and it takes place in Australia with boxing fans being able to watch it on free cable TV as Bob suggested this past week.
Rest assured if Pacquiao vs. Horn comes to fruition, many fans will be disenchanted and muse that Manny is fighting another B-level no-hope opponent. And to a degree they’d be right, but with Pacquiao fighting as an attacker his entire career, one never knows when Father Time will sneak up on him and without warning he’ll be an old fighter with diminished skills. Others will adamantly suggest how Mayweather would be excoriated if he fought a fighter the caliber of Horn - who is no doubt limited at the world class level. However, there is a difference. If Mayweather fought Horn he’d force you to pay to watch it -- something you apparently won’t have to do if Pacquiao fights Horn.
It’s abundantly clear Pacquiao has no intention of retiring without fighting two, maybe three more times. With that, his choices are limited because of his age and the late stage of his career. In a perfect world he’d get another shot at Mayweather for the second biggest purse of his career. He’d lose again but that wouldn’t be the end of his fighting days -- because he could then fight Crawford, with the money still being great and the onus would be on Crawford to beat him more convincingly than Mayweather did. But it appears that Arum has a new strategy to monetize and extend Manny’s career while taking advantage of his popularity and perhaps enhancing it with the ever-shrinking world due to the leaps and bounds made in technology.
Pacquiao usually delivers fan-friendly, action-packed bouts. Yes, he’s mostly fighting to make as much money as he can in the short window of time he has left. If he wants to fight a guy like Jeff Horn while he’s on hold for the next super fight, we should be fine with that - as long as we don’t have to pay for it.