By: Hans Themistode
Manny Pacquiao hasn’t officially named his next opponent but the eight-division world champion has a strong idea as to who he will be facing next.
“We’re leaning towards Mikey Garcia,” Pacquiao told Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN.
Like most fighters at 147 pounds, Garcia has spent several years in an attempt to get Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) to face him. The former four-division titlist has always pushed forward with the notion that a showdown with Pacquiao is just within his grasp. However, watching his dream bout fail to materialize time and time again, Garcia was adamant that this time around, the fight he had long been craving for was actually going to happen.
“It’s been in the works for a few years,” said Garcia during a recent self-recorded video. “In the last few weeks, we’ve been getting very close to finalizing this. I’m pretty excited. Hopefully, we can get the exact date within the next few days. Were trying to get everything done for May. So far, it seems like all the parties are on board so I’m excited.”
While Garcia is seemingly happy as can be that things are finally going his way, many fighters, including WBO belt holder Terence Crawford, have momentarily been cast aside as he was also hoping to land a mega showdown with Pacquiao.
According to both Crawford and promoter Bob Arum, Pacquiao was razor close to agreeing to a bout with the aforementioned Crawford and were simply awaiting funding from an overseas partner where the contest would take place.
Despite the news that Garcia has jumped to the front of the line, Pacquiao isn’t entirely ready to walk away from the negotiating table with Crawford.
“We’re also talking to Crawford. It depends on who I get to face, what’s important is I’m ready.”
With Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) pegged to be the likely opponent, Pacquiao will return to the ring later on this year after spending nearly two years sequestered on the sidelines.
In his last ring appearance, which took place against former WBA belt holder Keith Thurman, Pacquiao dropped and mostly outmuscled his man to go on and win a close split decision. The now 42-year-old could have returned to the ring much earlier but elected to wait until COVID-19 ran its course. While the deadly disease is still out in full force, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic as vaccines are rapidly being administered to the public.
In addition to his refusal to fight during the pandemic, Pacquiao’s normally lofty purse was set to be reduced significantly due to the absence of fans inside of arenas. Furthermore, Pacquiao used the time away to recover from the war wounds he suffered at the hands of Thurman.
Immediately following his win, Pacquiao credited Thurman for being a heavy-handed fighter, even going as far as to say that he hit him as hard previous foe, Antonio Margarito.
Still, regardless of the back and forth brawl, Pacquiao claims that he was just fine the following day. In fact, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer claims that he spent most of his time playing his second favorite sport.
“We never really got complacent, we’ve always continuously worked out. We keep on playing basketball aside from boxing. Actually, right after my fight the last time with [Keith] Thurman, I didn’t work out boxing, but I kept playing basketball.”
As for Garcia, with Pacquiao coming out and admitting that he’s in the driver’s seat in terms of his next opponent, it was music to his ears. The California resident seemingly punched his Pacquiao sweepstake ticket with a dominant performance over former two-division belt holder Jessie Vargas roughly one year ago.
Garcia would go on to drop and thoroughly outbox his man on the night. Much like Pacquiao, he has remained on the sidelines but has been recently seen back in the gym preparing for his return to the ring.