January 12, 2017
The Schoolteacher vs The Senator: A mismatch?
JEFF Horn’s fight with Manny Pacquiao on April 23 is his Rocky moment.Not just for the fact he is the underdog like Balboa, but because the opportunity mirrors the plot of the Academy Award winning film.In the movie, long shot Philadelphia local Rocky Balboa is given his chance at world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.Creed’s promoter seeks a local fighter who will capture the public’s imagination and provide an entertaining fight — without being any real threat to the world title.A similar scenario is at play here. Sure, Horn’s promoter Duco Events has done an incredible job by securing the fight, but it’s Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum who needed the most convincing.Manny Pacquiao remains the promotional company’s prized fighter. No one contracted to Top Rank brings in the kind of revenue the Filipino senator does — even as his career winds down — and plans are being put in place to secure one giant final payday before the boxing legend hangs up the gloves.Arum is in the process of rebuilding Pacquiao for an anticipated return fight with Floyd Mayweather. It’s been the talk of boxing circles for the past few months and is seen as a matter of when, not if they’ll get back in the ring. That is plan A.The initial fight between the two best fighters of the past decade made those involved hundreds of millions of dollars but it didn’t exactly leave the viewing public wanting more. But there’s some angles being created in an attempt to help sell the fight. Pacquiao sighted a shoulder injury as the reason for his poor performance against Mayweather, something he says is behind him. A devastating victory over Jeff Horn will highlight that.Mayweather also wants to create history by getting his record to 50-0, eclipsing the great Rocky Marciano. A compelling narrative on its own.
But there’s also a plan B, Terence Crawford. Many expected the tough American to be Pacquiao’s next fight. But Bob Arum said this week Pacquiao would not fight Crawford, at least not yet.A multitude of reasons were given. Arum doesn’t want to make Pacquiao’s next fight pay-per-view in America and there’s a feeling Crawford isn’t enough of a crossover star to warrant the risk.The latter is probably closer to the truth. Pacquiao isn’t fighting Crawford next because he’d probably get beaten.At 38, Pacquiao is on the downswing of a distinguished boxing career. I saw it first-hand. I sat ringside at his fight with Jessie Vargas in November. It was a comfortable night for the Filipino, but Vargas is not an elite fighter.Pacquiao captured the WBO welterweight title, but he didn’t light up the boxing world. Sure he won comfortably but he didn’t look like stopping the former champion, instead choosing to cruise to a points victory.Floyd Mayweather sat ringside — the first time he has ever attended a Top Rank promotion featuring Manny Pacquiao. His presence fuelled rumours of a rematch, which was the intention behind his appearance. Had Pacquiao made a statement against Vargas that night, we may be sitting here now discussing that fight.Instead, that’s what Top Rank and Pacquiao hope Horn will accommodate. The Brisbane man is a stepping stone in a four fight plan for Pacquiao and Arum, a “farewell tour” as the promoter described. The first is Horn, before a fight in Russia in July, Europe (likely Scotland’s Ricky Burns) in September and a final December fight — either Mayweather or Crawford.
The Australian could throw an almighty divner in the works, but the Pacquiao camps aren’t suspecting that. He’s just like Balboa. An entertaining fight, low risk for high return.“The Hornet” improves with every fight. His most recent, a devastating win over Ali Funeka in Auckland, allowed him to capture the Pacquiao date. But Horn hasn’t really fought anyone near the class of the eight division world champion.His team have been stepping him up all the time, giving him great seasoning and increasing the class of opponent. But this next one is a big jump.As Anthony Mundine and Danny Green prepare to farewell the sport next month, many wondered who would come along and fill the void. It seems Horn will do more than that.For all Mundine’s hype, Horn has achieved something he couldn’t, landing a megafight, by doing his talking in the ring.Not many give the Queenslander a chance. But just like Rocky Balboa, he could give us a moment we will never forget. Let’s hope he does.