Manny Pacquiao will be 40 the next time he steps into a boxing ring and though his opponent is vastly overrated with zero victories of significance, Adrien Broner presents the Filipino senator with, well, a problem.
Lose to Broner on Jan. 19 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and Pacquiao loses all hope of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao signed with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions earlier this year precisely because he’s so invested in a second fight with Mayweather.
Pacquiao had long been promoted by Top Rank, but nearly all of the elite welterweights other than Terence Crawford are in the PBC’s stable. Thus, it made sense for Pacquiao to sign with the PBC, and not just because it presented the most direct path to a Mayweather rematch.
Mayweather drubbed Pacquiao in a 2015 mega-bout that remains both the greatest selling pay-per-view bout of all-time, as well as the most disappointing. The fight happened five years too late, at a point when both were past their primes, and it showed in the ring. Pacquiao, who required shoulder surgery after the bout, has been interested in a rematch ever since.
Broner for years has tried, and failed, miserably, to position himself as the second coming of Mayweather. He adopted Mayweather’s schtick about money, and tried to be as outrageous as possible to garner attention.
Where he fell short of Mayweather, though, is where it mattered. No matter what you may feel about Mayweather, whether you love him, hate him or feel indifferent toward him, the one thing all must agree is that Mayweather was the consummate professional: He was always in shape, he was always prepared and he continuously improved his skills.
Broner may be the most physically gifted fighter Pacquiao has faced other than Mayweather, but the results haven’t shown in the ring. Broner is 33-3-1 and likes to promote himself as a four-division world champion, but he has no wins over another elite fighter in his prime.
Broner’s lost when it’s mattered most, and usually by wide margins. He was routed last year by Mikey Garcia and out-hustled by Shawn Porter. His first loss, in 2013 to Marcos Maidana, was seen at the time as an upset but in retrospect it was anything but.
But Broner has built a following and that alone has kept him in the upper echelons of the sport. For Pacquiao, Broner will represent the kind of opponent who will help push him down the path toward a rematch with Mayweather: He’s fast and strong and when he’s committed — which isn’t often — he’s a dangerous foe.
Because of Broner’s following, he’ll also mean a good payday for Pacquiao, who hasn’t fought in the U.S. in more than two years because he had tax issues with the IRS.
“When I met up with Floyd in Japan, we talked and he said he wants to come out of retirement to challenge me,” Pacquiao said. “All I know is fighting in the ring and entertaining people. That’s my job. Floyd has come out of retirement and we’ll see after this fight, but we cannot underestimate Broner and this fight. We will discuss anything with Floyd Mayweather after that.”
Mayweather and Pacquiao met in Japan in September, on the day that Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez were going to fight for the middleweight title, and it became a story.
The question is whether Mayweather is all that interested in fighting Pacquiao. Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, is famously noncommittal, though he told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday there is nothing lined up.
Pacquiao doesn’t get a Mayweather fight with a win. There haven’t been talks. There is no date set.
“Everybody saw on the internet that they met each other and talked face-to-face, but that’s it,” Ellerbe said. “There are no promises. Right now, Floyd’s retired. But we’re not talking about [a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch]. We talked with Pacquiao about fighting Adrien Broner and that’s it.”
Pacquiao isn’t the same guy he once was, when he was arguably the best of his time. He was so talented, though, that even with a significant decline in speed, power and timing, he’s still among the best in the world.
Ellerbe allowed that “he looked good,” in July in a win over Lucas Matthysse that earned him the WBA welterweight title. Matthysse mostly looked disinterested, like a guy who didn’t want to be there but who needed the money so he showed up, but Pacquiao did what he needed to do.
He’ll need to be far better against Broner, though, than he was against Matthysse. A win over Pacquiao is still significant, and don’t think that hasn’t escaped Broner’s attention. Should he leave the MGM Grand with that black WBA title belt in tow, he’ll set himself up for unification bouts and significant paydays.
The unknown in most Broner fights is usually Broner: Does he take the fight seriously? Did he train? Will he fight hard for all 12 rounds?
In this one, though, the X-factor is Pacquiao: Is he anywhere near the guy who defeated Timothy Bradley in 2016? If he is, that should be enough to get past Broner.
The intrigue, though, is that we don’t know. And while the prize for Pacquiao is Mayweather, he truly loves to fight and loves to create a national event for his countrymen, who adore him in a manner few men have ever been adored by the masses.
“I just want to prove that I’m still in boxing and my journey in boxing is continuing,” Pacquiao said. “I want to entertain people and give a good show.”
A win will keep alive whatever hope there is for a rematch with Mayweather. That should be more than enough to bring the best out of Pacquiao.
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