By Jake Donovan
The lure of a possible rematch with longtime rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. undoubtedly factored into Manny Pacquiao’s decision to join the Premier Boxing Champions circuit.
Yet even without such a sequel ever occurring, it will be the Filipino southpaw and not his unbeaten conqueror who serves as the bank in a universe whose deep welterweight stable will keep him active for the rest of his Hall of Fame career.
As much is not lost on Adrien Broner, who certainly recognizes—but rightfully refuses to accept—his role as intended stepping stone ahead of their January 19 clash at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The former four-division titlist did his best to both entertain the media and carry a chip on his shoulder during both legs of their two-city press tour to promote the upcoming Showtime Pay-Per-View headliner. A profanity-laced stand-up routine was offered by Broner both in New York City on Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday, in stark contrast to Pacquiao’s straightforward commentary which didn’t offer very much of substance.
Regarless, their job is to perform in the ring, where both boxers have generally taken on all comers.
“As long as I’ve known (Broner), he’s never turned down a fight,” noted Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports in formally announcing the network’s first major event of the 2019 boxing season. “Not against Shawn Porter or bigger punchers like Marcos Maidana. For those who think this will be an easy fight or an easy bet because of the odds, think again. These are two of the most gifted athletes of this generation.”
The latter statement rings true in review of their entire respective careers, although it can be argued that both are currently in the twilight.
It seems like an odd statement to make on Broner, who won’t turn 30 until next July and is still no worse than competitive at the top level. Still, he boasts just one win in the past two years—barely edging out Adrian Granados in his Cincinnati hometown last February.
A loss to unbeaten Mikey Garcia last July and subsequent draw with former welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas this past April lend to the storyline that Broner has only lost to top level talent (Garcia, Porter, Maidana) and still remains competitive regardless of opposition.
Such a take fits in well with the suggestion that he’s being offered up to Pacquiao by the PBC brass as means to help rebrand the eight-division titlist as the sport’s leading attraction while cashing out Broner in the process.
That’s just not a mindset the brash boxer ever intends to embrace.
“I’m not just coming here for a check,” Broner (33-3-1, 24KOs) claims of his role in this event. “F*** the money. I know when I win this fight, it’s more money to come. And y’all gave a young – well, excuse my language, but this ain’t Nickelodeon. This is pay-per-view.”
It will mark the first time Broner will headline a PPV event, after having performed on the undercard of several but who has been better known as a reliable TV draw. The 29-year old has consistently brought in strong ratings for cable giant Showtime since joining the network in 2013 after producing the same type of magic for HBO.
His name power combined with that of Pacquiao is what has the Showtime and PBC brass salivating over how big of an event can come of January 19. Broner sees it—and the matchup itself—as a prime opportunity to score the type of career-defining win that even his harshest critics can’t take away.
“I just feel like he can’t beat me, Look at my resume. What do I do to southpaws? I stop them,” Broner pointed out during Tuesday’s press conference in Los Angeles. “Going into this fight, he’s another southpaw. I’ma do what I always do them, dismantle them.”
Most notable among his southpaw conquests are stoppage wins over Antonio DeMarco and Khabib Allakhverdiev, both of which secured Broner alphabet hardware. His dominant showing versus DeMarco resulted in his becoming the man to beat at lightweight, a performance that went a long way in removing some of the negativity that lingered from his losing his 130-pound title on the scale just four months prior.
The victory over Allakhverdiev was less celebrated, as it was four months removed from his 12-round loss to Porter and with the title at stake dismissed as a manufactured belt. Nevertheless, his 12th round stoppage victory goes in the books as making him a four-division titlist, though with that belt also being stripped due to failure to make weight, ahead of his eventual April ’16 stoppage win over Ashley Theophane.
Still, there exists the frame of mind that he—and not Pacquiao—is the man who stirs that drink at welterweight, boxing’s most talent-laden weight division.
It’s a concession his opponent will gladly make, if only for the press tour.
“I’m a person that doesn’t want to say trash talk, just to fight,” insists Pacquiao, who has never been as comfortable behind a microphone as he is in the ring—and for good reason.
The punching politician—who happens to be the only sitting Congressman and current Senator (both in his native Philippines) to ever win a major title in boxing, along with the sport’s only-ever eight division titlist—finally returned to the knockout column in his last fight, a one-sided 7th round drubbing of Lucas Matthysse this past July in Malaysia.
The bout netted Pacquiao yet another welterweight title, marking his fourth reign in that weight class alone. It pales in comparison to his having captured World (lineal) championships in four weight divisions, but is enough for his first fight back in the United States since Nov. ’16 to serve as a very big deal.
A win that night over Vargas—amazingly, the only common opponent between these two—was Pacquiao’s first since capturing an open Senate seat in the Philippines election that prior June. He’d previously insisted he was done with the game following a rubber match win over Tim Bradley in April ’16, going 2-1 in his three fight series with his friendly rival and hoping to have ended his incredible career on a win, nearly a year after losing to Mayweather in the most lucrative boxing event in history.
Somehow, his duties as a Philippines senator don’t conflict with his boxing career as much as his team thought would be the case, hence the decision to return.
Still, many were calling for him to return to retirement after a controversial points loss to Jeff Horn last July. The general consensus was that Pacquiao—who had Horn badly hurt and nearly out in round nine—was robbed on the scorecards, but sluggish enough in the ring to where he needn’t fight any longer.
Pacquiao’s lone piece of ring action since that day in Australia has been his aforementioned win over Matthysse. That particular fight served its purpose, scoring his first stoppage win since halting Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of their Nov. ’09 superfight to begin his first welterweight title ring.
As good as he looked, the reality is that time is not only longer on Pacquiao’s side but hasn’t been in years. He will turn 40 one month ahead of fight night, but still feels like he has far too much left to offer the sport.
“All I know how to do is fight in the ring, that’s my job,” Pacquiao insists. “Floyd will come out of his retirement after this fight, you’ll see. But we can’t look past this fight.
“I think that I will have a victorious fight on January 19 – a victorious and convincing win, like my last fight with Matthysse. I just want to prove to fans that Manny Pacquiao is still on top. The journey will still continue.”