Filipino great Manny Pac­quiao is com­bin­ing box­ing with pol­i­tics at the ripe old age of 38. De­clan Tay­lor asks if his lat­est out­ing will prove much of a test

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WHEN it was sug­gested back in Jan­uary that Manny Pac­quiao, 59-62 (38), would be de­fend­ing his WBO wel­ter­weight ti­tle against a man called Jeff Horn, 16-0-1 (11), the multi-weight world cham­pion re­vealed he had never even heard of the Aus­tralian. Join the club.

But in a chang­ing box­ing world where the most lu­cra­tive fight in the sport’s his­tory will in­volve an MMA fighter, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the con­text of a con­test be­tween a Filipino se­na­tor and a pri­mary school teacher be­fore dis­miss­ing it as a sideshow.

“Pac Man” is one of the great­est lit­tle men the sport has ever seen but, now 38, he cur­rently jug­gles box­ing and pol­i­tics. In many ways it is sur­pris­ing that he

de­cided to box on at all after re­claim­ing the wel­ter­weight crown by out­point­ing Jesse Var­gas in Las Ve­gas last Novem­ber.

In that sense it is no sur­prise to see him es­chew a route through the other lead­ing lights at 10st 7lb in favour of what is be­ing billed as a world tour. And what bet­ter place to start than in a coun­try which must be con­sid­ered a true sleep­ing gi­ant of box­ing against a man who should pose him no sig­nif­i­cant threat what­so­ever. He is also ex­pected to bank around £6m, which should ease the jet­lag some­what.

Aus­tralia have, at one stage or an­other over the past 30 years, dominated in cricket and rugby, on the ath­let­ics track and in the pool but have only spo­rad­i­cally pro­duced box­ers ca­pa­ble of mix­ing it at world level. But, as was hoped, lur­ing Pac­quiao to Bris­bane has re­ally cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of Queenslanders. The Sun­corp Sta­dium has had to se­cure an ex­emp­tion in or­der to in­crease seat­ing ca­pac­ity to 60,000 in or­der to sat­isfy the huge de­mand.

It goes without say­ing that the so-called ‘Bat­tle of Bris­bane’ will blow the coun­try’s record box­ing at­ten­dance of 38,000 – who watched Azumah Nel­son knock out Jeff Fenech in their 1992 re­match – out of the wa­ter.

And it is not un­rea­son­able to sug­gest that this week­end’s fight could in­deed pro­voke a shift in the na­tion’s sport­ing land­scape, much like Joseph Parker’s rise across the wa­ter in New Zealand has, par­tic­u­larly if Horn wins.

The 29-year-old is un­de­feated in 17 fights and forced age­ing for­mer wel­ter­weight cham­pion Ran­dall Bai­ley into a sev­enth-round re­tire­ment last year. But, as we saw when his com­pa­tri­ots Mark De Mori and Renold Quin­lan came up over from Down Un­der to fight David Haye and Chris Eubank Ju­nior, the dif­fer­ence in lev­els is stark.

Pac­quiao is by no means the south­paw whirl­wind of old and some of his killer in­stinct might have sub­sided – but put him in a box­ing ring with an­other hu­man be­ing and watch him go. Just ask for­mer su­per-light­weight world champ Chris Al­gieri, who was floored six times in his 2014 mis­match with Pac­quiao, whether the lit­tle man still bangs or not.

Horn reck­ons Pac­quiao is slow­ing down and there to be ‘out­mus­cled’ due to his size ad­van­tage but it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that when the self­dubbed “Hor­net” first walked into a box­ing gym 11 years ago, the Filipino was al­ready a two-weight world cham­pion.

Of course, Pac­quiao’s Hall of Fame pro­moter Bob Arum has taken a side­ways view of the con­test dur­ing its build-up.

“You look at a man like Jeff Horn,” he said. “Is he an un­der­dog? Yeah, he’s an un­der­dog. Manny has been one of the great, great fight­ers of our time and even at 38 pos­sesses skills that no other fight­ers have.

“But in Jeff Horn, you have a young man who has the tools. If he can apply those tools and if ev­ery­thing goes ac­cord­ing to plan, he can not only be com­pet­i­tive but he has the op­por­tu­nity to pull off the upset. That is what box­ing is all about.” And what of the de­ci­sion to take it to Aus­tralia? He said: “The sport of box­ing is global now.

“Peo­ple are look­ing at it as a ma­jor sport all over the world. Manny’s last fight in China was watched in 50 mil­lion homes. It is a sport grow­ing by leaps and bounds. Top fight­ers come from all over the world.”

There is no finer oc­ca­sion for Horn to prove he be­longs in that bracket than July 2, but it’s a huge ask. Vic­tory would go straight in along­side the likes of Don­ald Curry v Lloyd Honeyghan and Mike Tyson v Buster Dou­glas as one of the big­gest up­sets in his­tory.

A self-con­fessed nerd dur­ing his school days, Horn turned to box­ing in a bid to beat the bul­lies. He later be­came a pri­mary school teacher while also reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Lon­don 2012 Olympic Games where he was beaten by Ukraine’s bril­liant Denys Ber­inchyk, who ended up claim­ing sil­ver.

But, win or lose, the 29-year-old be­lieves he is fight­ing for a wider cause in his coun­try and knows July 2 has given him an op­por­tu­nity to spread a mes­sage.

“It’s a bit sur­real at the mo­ment be­cause I never thought this day would ac­tu­ally come,” he said at the press con­fer­ence to an­nounce the fight.

“I like to think I got here not just with my fists but I reckon my main strength which got me here is my head.


“Be­fore I started box­ing, I got into a few fights in high school where I lost all of them. I got beaten up.

“I felt bad, I got bul­lied, I had gangs come up to me. I just felt like I couldn’t do any­thing, so I wanted to grow some con­fi­dence. That was when I went to the box­ing gym and de­cided I needed to learn how to fight just for some self­de­fence.

“I have to give a mes­sage to chil­dren out there and peo­ple ev­ery­where ac­tu­ally that if you be­lieve in your­self and you work hard to­wards a goal, you can get there.

“Pac­quiao is one of the great­est box­ers in his­tory and peo­ple in Aus­tralia have sup­ported the fight be­cause of his name and the chance to see an Aussie against him. But I be­lieve this is the start of a new era in box­ing and a chang­ing of the guard.’

“I have some ad­van­tages over Manny – I’ve got the height, I’ve got the reach, I’ve got age on my side and I’ve got hunger.”

An­other in­ter­est­ing plot line in this fight is that it will be shown in America on ESPN, mean­ing for the first time in his ca­reer, Pac­quiao will be box­ing on ba­sic ca­ble across the pond. It will also be his first non pay-per-view fight for al­most 12 years.

With no re­quire­ment to gen­er­ate box of­fice sales, the se­na­tor has re­mained typ­i­cally prag­matic in his as­sess­ment of the fight.

“I chose Jeff Horn be­cause of his com­pe­tence in the ring,” Pac­quiao said, sound­ing ev­ery inch the politi­cian.

“I be­lieve we can cre­ate more ac­tion in the ring be­cause of his ag­gres­sive style.”

It is ex­actly that which will play into Pac­quiao’s hands. Horn’s pen­chant for pres­sure will suit Pac­quiao’s strat­egy, and the vis­i­tor could well earn his first knock­out vic­tory since he ren­dered Ricky Hatton un­con­scious in 2009.

Be­neath the main event there is also a clutch of intriguing bouts on the un­der­card. In the only other world ti­tle fight, Pac­quiao’s com­pa­triot Jer­win

An­ca­jas, 26-1-1 (17), puts his IBF su­per­fly crown on the line against Ja­pan’s light­punch­ing Teiru Ki­noshita, 25-1-1 (8).

An­ca­jas is the first world cham­pion in Pac­quiao’s MP Pro­mo­tions sta­ble and this will be the sec­ond defence of the ti­tle he won by beat­ing Mcjoe Ar­royo last year fol­low­ing his vic­tory over Jose Al­fredo Rodriguez in Ma­cau in Jan­uary, when the Mex­i­can re­tired with an in­jured shoul­der.

Top Rank’s ris­ing Ir­ish star Michael Conlan will have his third pro con­test after two stop­pages in as many months when he faces lo­cal su­per­ban­tamweight Jar­rett

Owen, 5-4-3 (2). Highly rated Las Ve­gas­based Rus­sian Umar Salamov, 19-0 (14), who is just 23 years old, is also in ac­tion against Queens­land’s light-heavy­weight hope Damien Hooper, 12-1 (8), who was one of Horn’s team­mates at Lon­don 2012. An­other Aussie in ac­tion is 10-0 (8)

David Tous­saint, of Can­berra, who faces Shane Mosley Jnr, 10-1 (7), over eight at su­per-mid­dleweight. There are high hopes for Tous­saint, who beat World sil­ver medal­list Hooper twice in the ama­teurs, but just 10 fights in al­most four years since turn­ing over has not been ideal for the for­mer elec­tri­cian. A win over Mosley Jnr will spark more life into his quest for world honours.

THE VER­DICT A first knock­out win in over eight years could be on the cards for Pac­quiao.



THE UN­KNOWN: Horn [right] is an un­her­alded foe for Pac­quiao

HARD WORKER: Pac­quiao has to mix train­ing with his po­lit­i­cal du­ties

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