Well, boxing fans should know by now that we aren’t allowed fun headlines. The hype and excitement of Manny Pacquiao fighting on free TV (and on ESPN nonetheless) was one that got attention in the world of a casual sports fan.
Australian Jeff Horn, a probably just above domestic-level opponent but far below a likely contender, was set to be a perfect showcase opponent for Pacquiao. He’s legitimate enough to be sanctioned (don’t listen to Stephen A. Smith, Horn’s defeats over Ali Funeka and Randall Bailey, while not Keith Thurman or Errol Spence Jr. level, aren’t some guys you’ll find in a local gym) and he had a come-forward approach that would guarantee fireworks. In a stadium of up to 55,000 person capacity and on a worldwide television audience, the time was ripe to showcase boxing to a new level.
Well, we know that the judges saw things differently and gave Horn a laughable unanimous decision. While Horn was active, and did some decent things in the ring (aka he threw punches and survived when not throwing), mostly everyone knew that Pacquiao was the winner.
So let’s get that out of the way. Pacquiao should’ve won the fight and Horn was better than the bum he was seemingly portrayed as by ESPN. Those are the only two takeaways that really should matter.
But let’s talk about Pacquiao shall we? Since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the “Fight of the Century”, Pacman has been on a bit of a journey. He had the rotator cuff injury heard ’round the world, an impressive win against Timothy Bradley Jr. in an unneeded trilogy, a brief retirement, was elected a Senator in his native Philippines, a come back to beat beltholder Jesse Vargas, and a robbery at the hands of the judges against Jeff Horn.
Before the loss to Horn, I was actually a believer in ranking Pacquiao as a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. His legacy and resume are of course elite, but I also thought that comfortably beating top-10 welterweights in back-to-back fights more than warranted an argument. Was he the “whirling dervish” or the “tornado of fists” that we once saw? No, but he was a more controlled fighter who fought in bursts.
However, during the “Battle of Brisbane” as it was called; Pacquiao just didn’t look right. Sure, Horn had an awkward style that took a few minutes to get situated against but minus a thunderous 9th round; Pacquiao just didn’t look the same. The handspeed was still there, but the tenacity and the angles seemed….less than extraordinary. Horn used his size and some headlocks to disrupt Pacquiao, but nonetheless he should’ve been vanquished.
I know that styles make fights. But during this particular bout, I did not see one of the top-10 fighters in the world. I did not see the best welterweight. Does that mean Pacquiao is completely done and just a shell of a man that should retire?
No. But after seeing Keith Thurman handle Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. blasting out Kell Brook, it is hard to not heavily favor them in hypothetical matchups against Pacquiao. It is hard to envision the counter-happy Garcia not landing on Pacquiao and neutralizing his offense. That much discussed “passing of the Top Rank torch” match between Terrance Crawford and Pacquiao? No way that’s happening or even as fascinating.
Pacquiao will get his shot at Horn again and if he does win, god will we be forced with a trilogy in Pacquiao’s home country? At this point, I still rate Pacquiao as a very good fighter, but it seems his status as the elite of his weight class are officially in the past.