Four months after the subject was initially broached – and left most who heard the news in disbelief – it is finally official that Manny Pacquiao will fight little known Jeff Horn on July 1 (July 2 in Australia, where the fight will take place) for the WBO welterweight title.
It’s a bizarre choice of opponent for a man who has been one of boxing’s most fearless warriors.
Pacquiao, who has won world titles or been recognized as the best in eight weight classes, began his career as a 106-pounder as a 16-year-old in 1995. He’s taken on the best of the best as he’s moved inexorably up through the weight classes, facing the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and numerous others.
Horn doesn’t come close to the cache – or talent – of those kinds of fighters. His selection as Pacquiao’s opponent, at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, will do little to excite anyone other than Pacquiao’s most fervent supporters.
In December, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank did a deal with Horn promoter Duco Events to co-promote WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. Perhaps having Pacquiao fight Horn was in someway payback for that agreement, though it’s only unconfirmed speculation.
Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz had been working diligently to land a big-name opponent. Last year, he was pushing Arum to pair Pacquiao with Adrien Broner, prior to Pacquiao agreeing to fight Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 for the WBO belt.
And earlier this year, Koncz said he and Pacquiao had a deal to fight Amir Khan in the United Arab Emirates. The financing on that deal fell through.
That left Horn as the choice as Pacquiao’s opponent. At the news conference following Pacquiao’s win over Vargas in November, Arum threw out the Top Rank-promoted Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko as potential Pacquiao opponents for 2017.
Both Crawford and Lomachenko, who on Saturday and was again extremely impressive in a ninth-round knockout win over Jason Sosa, are in the pound-for-pound discussion.
Both are far bigger names, and far more accomplished, than Horn. But the topic of fighting Pacquiao was never seriously broached with either.
Instead, Top Rank put together an essentially low-end fight with Horn.
Koncz, in a statement to Yahoo Sports, attempted to put a good spin on it.
“This Jeff Horn is something else,” Koncz said. “It’s as if he is having flashbacks to the days of teaching school and [is] giving a lecture to his fourth grade students or something, but someday he will come to the realization that on July 2 it’s a different world. It’s a different arena and it’s the world of professional boxing, where respect is earned through years of dedication to the sport. He will be the fourth grade student getting schooled and wishing he was back in a classroom instead of the ring with a true legend with ring generalship beyond his comprehension.
“Jeff Horn, rest assured that Manny Pacquiao is not taking you or this fight lightly and will be prepared like never before. He has pledged to prove a point to all his fans in Australia and the world. Basic Math 101. Horn [says] you never fear the ones that make noise and talk up a storm. You must be concerned with the ones that are silent as they are the dangerous ones.”
Koncz’s trash talking notwithstanding, it’s a fight that figures to generate very little interest outside of Australia, particularly in the United States where Horn has a zero Q rating.
Pacquiao has always been willing, and eager, to fight the best. This type of matchmaking, though, makes him look like he’s being protected as he nears the end of his career.