The title of the column basically echoes the question of boxing fans after Australian Jeff Horn was picked as the next opponent for Manny Pacquiao. After tossing names like Terence Crawford, Pacquiao’s team ended up picking a fighter who is not even a household name in his own household.
Make no mistake, Horn offers decent credentials; an unbeaten record (16-0, 1 draw, 11 knockouts) and an amateur resume that was highlighted by an appearance in the 2012 Olympics. But to say that Horn is a worthy challenger to Pacquiao is like saying that Elvis Presley still lives; there is no tinge of truth in it. Which begs anew the query: ‘Why Horn?’ Three basic reasons come to mind: economics, reputation and extension.
ECONOMICS: Pacquiao will not get the $20 million payday he used to command, at least not against a fighter like Horn, but taking on the inexperienced Australian for a lower amount is not that bad at all. It’s like being paid handsomely for a sparring session. While there is always the possibility of an upset, the fight is definitely low-risk compared to a scuffle involving Crawford. While he owns a decent right straight, Horn is snail-like slow in the ring and is a sucker for Pacquiao’s lightning-fast left. Horn also has not fought anyone with a decent pulse. A washed up, 41-year-old Randall Bailey, a former world junior welterweight champion, knocked down Horn before getting stopped in seven rounds in April 2016. Just last December, unheralded South African Ali Funeka also floored Horn before losing by technical knockout in the sixth stanza.
REPUTATION: Pacquiao needs Horn to restore his badass reputation in the ring. Pacquiao has not scored a knockout since 2009 and this has greatly diminished his marketability. Pacquiao has been fed with guys like Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios, foes who were supposedly programmed to sleep, but he still went the distance with them. Promoter Bob Arum has lowered the bar further, so to speak, picking Horn in the hope that Pacquiao’s knockout drought will finally come to an end. For all the praises Pacquiao has earned for evolving into a judicious boxer, fans really long for the gung-ho, devil-may-care slugger of old.
EXTENSION: Arum wants Pacquiao to fight at least four times this year and is even conjuring images of a farewell, global tour. The last time Pacquiao fought four times in a year was 2001, when he was still a super bantamweight (122 lbs.), but by squeezing in one or two nondescript foes, Arum hopes Pacquiao will be able to get it done. Taking on foes like Horn will give Pacquiao some breathing room before he goes full throttle against the big guns down the stretch. After Horn, Arum plans to bring Pacquiao to Russia, London and, hopefully, the Philippines. The finale could come against Crawford or Juan Manuel Marquez in November. Of course, if all four fights end up against patsies, look for Pacquiao to stretch his career beyond 2017. Don’t laugh because Arum did not totally discount the possibility of the Pacman still being around by 2018.
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