Wednesday, March 29, 2023  |



The days of Pacquiao superfights are over

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Promotions
Fighters Network

If you are unhappy with the fact that Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent is the little-known Jeff Horn, don’t be. The Manny Pacquiao you have grown to love over the past dozen years is long gone. In his place is the “Farewell Tour” version of Pacquiao who will traverse the world against opponents who don’t have much of a chance to beat him while watching his bank account swell.

At the age of 38 and with a day job as a senator in his home country of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao’s best years are clearly behind him. Although he put together an exceptional performance against Jessie Vargas, the reality is that his opponent was Jessie Vargas. And Jessie Vargas is a guy that most would have expected Pacquiao to utterly destroy in 2010. These days? Not so much.

For those clamoring for Pacquiao to face Terence Crawford, your hopes are fleeting. It’s a lot to ask for Pacquiao to find time between his senatorial duties to train for any fight. But to ask him to train for an opponent as dynamic as Crawford is the equivalent of a possible career death sentence. And there’s a whole lot of money still to be made.

Instead of being put out to the pasture like Old Yeller, Bob Arum will trot Pacquiao across the globe in markets where he can be a financially viable commodity against opponents that are overmatched but reasonable draws. Horn will be a great draw in Australia and will fill up a venue with an opponent who remains a global celebrity. The opportunity to see Pacquiao is more significant than the fight itself.

There will be no struggle to find a venue that fits neatly inside of Pacquiao’s schedule, as there was against Vargas. For those who haven’t attended a fight in Las Vegas, the Thomas & Mack is off the strip and certainly not the ideal location for a fight. However, given the window of opportunity, it was the only venue available.

Photo by: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Consider the Vargas fight as a trial run to see how things would work out for a Pacquiao return bout. The venue was less than ideal and Pacquiao stated that it was a challenge to balance training with his day job. If you add the fact that he has a family to take care of, you are looking at a man who simply doesn’t have enough hours in the day. Vargas was the perfect opponent for Pacquiao to see how he would fare. On talent alone, Pacquiao was the superior fighter. However, both Freddie Roach and Arum are smart enough to recognize that this version of Pacquiao will be spread too thin if squared up with a top-tier welterweight.

Without having to worry about pay-per-view buys and engaging the fickle American audience, Pacquiao can cruise his way through training, have a relatively easy fight with few media obligations and rake in a lot of cash.

If you pay close attention to Arum’s statement to ESPN, you can see exactly how Arum has his Pacquiao plans laid out.

“There really wasn’t any incentive [to go after a bigger name],” he said. “Horn was a good enough opponent and the only way we would have switched is if there was more money to be made with someone else, like if we went to the Middle East and fought Amir Khan.”

The key words here are “wasn’t any incentive” and “good enough.” A fight against Crawford would require Arum to go into a heavy promotional push. But he would face many challenges, as Crawford isn’t a mainstream star yet while Pacquiao wouldn’t have the time to participate in media obligations. Crawford would be unable to sell the fight by himself and with what can be expected as hefty paydays for both parties, Arum would have to do a lot of work for a little profit. But with Horn, the fight sells itself and doesn’t require Arum to dump a ton of cash into the Aussie’s account. All that matters is that Horn makes for a competitive fight.

We can be selfish and say that Pacquiao and Crawford should fight this year. But the reality is that the ship has sailed and it’s unlikely to come back around. It would be nice to see Crawford catapult into the mainstream with a Pacquiao fight, but with the boxing public down on the Filipino, there are no guarantees that it would launch him into becoming the celebrity that Arum needs as Pacquiao carefully wraps up his legendary career.

Instead, we’ll see a Pacquiao farewell tour against lesser opponents.

It’s a low risk, high reward scenario and Arum likes those odds.