By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – While Manny Pacquiao’s upcoming fight with unheralded Australian Jeff Horn is a world away from his blockbuster bouts against Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Oscar De La Hoya, the ‘Battle of Brisbane’ may help return the Filipino to pay-per-view royalty.
Pacquiao, one of the finest boxers of his generation, was defeated by Mayweather in an unanimous points decision in Las Vegas two years ago but the 38-year-old wants another shot at the American.
Mayweather retired in 2015 with a 49-0 record but the 40-year-old has agreed to a 12-round fight against mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor, a match-up dismissed by boxing purists as a circus.
Speculation of a potential Pacquiao-Mayweather rematch has rumbled in the background, with the Filipino’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach saying that Mayweather had paid several visits to his Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles in recent months.
Roach told reporters in the leadup to Sunday’s fight that Pacquiao wanted a rematch with Mayweather but he would have to put on a show against Horn to have any chance of getting it.
“To get Mayweather you have to look good. Against Horn, he has to be impressive. It’s a good way to get his pay-per-view audience back.”
BOX OFFICE APPEAL
While Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title defence will be pay-per-view on Australian television, ESPN’s telecast will be beamed prime-time in the United States on Saturday.
While Lang Park, a stadium mostly used for professional rugby matches, is an unlikely venue for the Filipino senator’s bid to stay relevant in the boxing world Pacquiao (59-6-2) still has huge box office appeal.
Enough for the local Queensland government to help bankroll a fight expected to draw over 50,000 spectators.
Pacquiao’s camp had hoped to arrange a fight with Briton Amir Khan in the United Arab Emirates in May but that deal fell through over money problems, opening the door for Horn (16-0-1), a 29-year-old former schoolteacher who is undefeated against mainly obscure opponents.
Roach has predicted a knockout in a “short and sweet” fight.
“In all my years of boxing, I have never been as motivated and fired up as this fight,” Pacquiao said on his arrival ‘Down Under’.
Pacquiao regained the welterweight world title belt he lost to Mayweather when he beat Jesse Vargas in a unanimous decision in November, proving he still remains a formidable competitor.
But he has failed to win inside the distance since a 12th round TKO of Miguel Cotto in 2009.
While Roach quips that Pacquiao’s embrace of Christianity has stopped the knockout blows from coming pundits have questioned whether the southpaw still has the power that accounted for the likes of De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton.
Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton has bullishly predicted the fight will go the distance but the former Olympian will go into his hometown bout a rank outsider.
Horn, who stands to earn a fraction of Pacquiao’s guaranteed purse, win or lose, was unimpressed with Pacquiao’s lack of interest in the pre-fight media conference this week where the Filipino spent much of the time playing with his phone.
“I can’t imagine him doing that at a Mayweather press conference,” Horn told local media.
“It definitely shows a bit of ‘he doesn’t care’ attitude to the fight.
“Maybe we’ll see he hasn’t put in all the hard work they say he has.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)