You cannot help but wonder if Manny Pacquiao really wants to fight again or if he is just being forced to dance to the beat of promoter Bob Arum’s drums.
It is Harvard-bred lawyer Arum who has been doing most of the talking about Pacquiao’s return to the squared circle. Arum got the buzz going by first reserving a fight date in October in Las Vegas before moving the same to November 5. He then started rounding off the names of Pacquiao’s potential opponents. Pacquiao could have easily squelched Arum’s media blitzkrieg by reiterating that he is retired, but the fact that he has been relatively mum on the matter suggests that the announcements came with his imprimatur.
Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 knockouts) supposedly retired after beating American Timothy Bradley in an unnecessary third match in April. Nobody wanted to see the fight and predictably it drew an anemic response from fight fans. Arum lost a lot of money (reportedly more than $10 million) and one can readily deduce that the return of Pacquiao that is now being hatched is a way of recouping the huge losses. It is like Arum telling Pacquiao, “C’mon Manny, do it one more time so we can both bow out in the black.”
Unless his return will lead to an eventual rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., there is really no more reason for Pacquiao to fight again. Having just been elected Senator, Pacquiao now has legislative duties to tackle. It is only the rematch with fellow veteran Mayweather which makes sense from a financial and legacy standpoint. If there is one fight where Filipinos are willing to see Pacquiao take a leave of absence from the Senate to totally train, it’s a clash with Mayweather.
As things stand, Pacquiao is expected to announce a return to the ring on November 5. It remains unclear who he will fight next, but the following names have been prominently mentioned: the winner of the junior welterweight (140 lbs.) unification showdown this weekend between WBO champ Terence Crawford (28-0, 20 knockouts) and WBC titlist Viktor Postol (28-0, 12 knockouts); WBA welterweight champ (147 lbs.) Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 knockouts); WBC welterweight kingpin Danny Garcia (32-0, 18 knockouts); and WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts). Former world champ Adrien Broner was in the running until he asked too much money.
Style-wise, Pacquiao-Thurman guarantees unadulterated action. Thurman is up for a mandatory defense against David Avanesyan, but you can bet the rent money that he is ready to skip the fight and even give up the belt if it means rubbing mitts with Pacquiao. Crawford, if he beats Postol, will also make for a marquee matchup and might even be favored over Pacquiao owing to the potential he has shown in his recent fights. Crawford is technically sound with underrated power.
Garcia and Vargas belong in the second-tier. Garcia has been searching for a big name opponent and Pacquiao fits the bill. As in the case of Thurman, Arum will have to work with rival Al Haymon to make this fight happen. Vargas makes for the least interesting foe for Pacquiao. If Pacquiao wants a mere stroll in the park, the feather-fisted Vargas is the guy. Then again, you have to wonder if Arum will have the guts to make Pacquiao-Vargas, a fight nobody wants and is likely to stink at the box-office like Pacquiao-Bradley III.
Ultimately, the decision to return to the ring should be solely for Pacquiao to make. He should not do it just because he wants Arum to make some money or to give his hangers-on one last payday. There can be no half-hearted return because the young guns of the sport are all breathing down Pacquiao’s neck.
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