The Irrelevance of Manny Pacquiao?
By: Kirk Jackson
Did you know Manny “Pac-man” Pacquiao 59-6-2 (38 KO’s) fights this weekend?
Yes in fact, he defends his WBO welterweight title against the unknown challenger Jeff “The Hornet” Horn 16-0-1 (11 KO’s) of Australia.
Little is known of Horn. We know he is from Brisbane, Australia and the only world-caliber opponents he faced to date are Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka. Both arguably past their primes.
We also know Horn is also a school teacher on side. Horn earned a Bachelor’s of Education degree to teach secondary school from Griffith University and previously worked at a child care center.
“I’ve trained the hardest that I’ve ever had for this fight. I’ve finished all the hard work, and I’m just ready to show that in the ring,” a confident Horn told ABS-CSN.
“I’m bigger than Manny in there, I’ll probably have a few kilos on him, I’m nine years younger than him, so in the later rounds, that might show.”
Horn had better be in the best shape of his life, because a match featuring him and Pacquiao seems more comparable to a lamb meeting the slaughter as opposed to a student learning from the teacher. The extra height and weight didn’t help Antonio Margarito when he auditioned as Pacquiao’s walking punching bag in their encounter.
Watching the few clips I could find on Horn, this looks like an uneven pairing of two fighters. This will probably be as lopsided as another side show event taking place in August…
The broadcasting rights for this match was in limbo for a while before finally finding a home, as it was only recently announced the fight would air on ESPN.
After the last pay-per-view outings for Pacquiao, that option was a no-go due to poor performances (by comparison to his standards). Aside from Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao is the highest grossing pay-per-view star period.
HBO, former stomping grounds for Pacquiao, apparently wanted nothing to do with this fight, which may relate to their recent budget cuts.
“The network has been cutting back because there are fewer new bankable stars,” said a former HBO executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to comment. “Without big marquee names, the economics are terrible.”
HBO appears more vested into featuring the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Terence Crawford, the pay-per-view featuring Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and the recent pay-per-view featuring the rematch between pound-for-pound king Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.
“Our strategy as a team is to work with our partners to make the best fights the fans want to see,” said executive president of HBO Sports Peter Nelson.
“We believe in terms of architecting success by ensuring we can provide the best possible fights for whatever talent is out there who want to be the best. That’s how you step toward greatness. That’s what fans want.”
This leaves little room for one of the main attractions of boxing who generated millions of dollars for the company.
HBO may broadcast another Pacquiao fight in the future if he chooses to challenge Crawford, or any other notable, upper-tier opponent, which could potentially draw great revenue for the company.
Unified WBA and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman, newly crowned IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence, two division champion Danny Garcia, would also be excellent choices. The issue with those potential match-ups is the relationship with their manager Al Haymon; would they be able to work something out?
Looking back at Pacquiao’s history regarding HBO, he headlined some of the biggest events of the past decade and the most financially successful fight of all-time with long-time rival Floyd Mayweather in May of 2015.
Speaking of Mayweather, doesn’t it seem ESPN talks more about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight (Circus) than the Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn event?
Tune into ESPN radio; watch First Take or any other ESPN staple, you’ll hear Mayweather vs. McGregor mentioned 47 times within an hour span. I haven’t heard Pacquiao vs. Horn mentioned more than five times.
Honestly it’s a shame. A champion of Pacquiao’s caliber would command respect and attention right?
The narrative suggests Pacquiao’s success as a draw stemmed from his exciting fighting style, HBO/ESPN propaganda and his attachment to Mayweather.
Their names were tied together for the better part of five years, share common opponents, among other similarities.
Regarding the lack of interest for this fight, is it an issue correlating with opponent selection, or the man himself?
The answer may be a combination of everything.
It could also be a sign of the times, as we are currently entrenched in a boxing renaissance. This year in particular, there is a multitude of unification matches and bouts featuring the top opposition of their respective weight classes.
What we have as a result is great, competitive fights and renewed excitement amongst the fans.
The rhetoric of all the top fighters of yester-year always fought one another (think back to the 1980’s, 1970’s and beyond) is exaggerated.
Sugar Ray Leonard was a great fighter, but he took his time in regards to fighting Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The late Aaron Pryor didn’t even get an opportunity.
Then of course there are guys like Michael Nunn and McCollum who were avoided altogether.
Greats like Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez routinely fought journeymen in route to eventually facing greater foes.
At 26-0-1 Benitez fought Roberto Gonzalez who was debuting as a professional.
Benitez faced East Boy Lake (who finished with a professional record of 10-16-2 [5 KO’s]) three times.
With a record of 70-1 (55 KO’s) Duran faced and beat the inexperienced Wellington Wheatley 7-2-1 (2 KO’s) to a pulp.
Ezequiel Obando 1-3 (1 KO) had no business sharing the ring with a prime, 60 plus win Duran either.
It’s a part of boxing; match-making, each fight serves a purpose. Some fights are poised as set-up fights or fights to keep the main attraction busy. So context matters.
Many fans and writers however, tend to have revisionist history when reminiscing and comparing the great fighters of the past to the great fighters of today.
Bringing it back to the present, with the current era of boxing reinvigorated, the fan demand may control the type of fights we witness.
The high demand (albeit mainly from MMA observers) created the Mayweather vs. McGregor event.
Due to the demand of fans, the competitiveness amongst the fighters and appropriate money rewarded to these fighters, we get see match-ups like Ward vs. Kovalev (twice), Thurman vs. Garcia, Spence vs. Kell Brook, Badou Jack vs. James DeGale, Canelo and Triple G, hopefully Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux and (fingers crossed) Pacquiao vs. Crawford.
The casual or hardcore fan may not be tired of watching Pacquiao, but may be partial to seeing him in something meaningful.
A fight with Jeff Horn is not a match-up deemed as significant.
Just as Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri or Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios in recent years. The fortunate thing is those match-ups lead to greater duels down the line; Pacquiao faced Timothy Bradley in a return bout after cruising over Rios, and Pacquiao had his long-awaited showdown with Mayweather after smashing Algieri.
With Pacquiao and Horn, one can hope a fight against Crawford awaits our eyes in the aftermath. Like with Benitez and Duran among others in the past, as long as these miniscule fights lead to something greater down the line, all is well.
It’s fair to speculate the luster of Pacquiao died when he lost to Mayweather in 2015.
Hyped as the fight that would save boxing (again with the erroneous rhetoric), Pacquiao lost a clear decision in which many casual fans deemed a snooze fest.
Followed by a litany of excuses, the Filipino’s star quickly deflated, as he was supposed to be the guy to bring an end to Mayweather’s tyranny.
Pacquiao was bested and became another feather in Mayweather’s cap instead, which shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments.
Since his defeat to Mayweather, the Filipino congressman recovered nicely, defeating world champions Jessie Vargas and Bradley again in their third encounter.
He is still a top ten pound-for-pound fighter in my eyes and is still relevant.
Fights against Horn are blips on the radar.
With his legacy already cemented, Pacquiao is entitled to fight whoever he wants. Boxing thrives on theater; intriguing match-ups and storylines. The lack of both for this particular bout may explain the lack of interest.