After seven-and-a-half years without a knockout WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao is due for a big KO in his next fight, according to his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.
The eight-time world champion has been criticized for what some people perceive as a soft touch in former schoolteacher Jeff Horn, a 17-fight novice, who he will face in the Australian’s native Brisbane at the 52,500 seat Suncorp Stadium on 2nd July.
Coach Roach denies that they are underestimating their little known opponent.
“Tell Horn we will be ready,” said Roach. “We never take opponents lightly and Manny will be in excellent shape when we arrive a couple of weeks before the fight.”
Despite his knockout drought Pacquiao hasn’t been entirely bereft of power. In 2014 he dropped the normally durable Chris Algieri six times en route to a wide decision victory. In his two outings last year, against Timothy Bradley for the third time and Jessie Vargas, he sent them both to the canvas twice and once respectively. Not bad for a 22-year veteran who won his first world title as a flyweight over 18 years ago.
Horn meanwhile is a natural welterweight who has stopped his last three opponents.
At 29-years-old the former Olympian is in his physical prime and holds a respectable knockout ratio of 65%.
“I have watched a few tapes of Jeff Horn and noted his left hook and overhand right, but my answer is no when you ask if he has a puncher’s chance because Manny is the one who will be delivering the knockout,” said Roach.
Horn finds himself in a position not dissimilar to Pacquiao’s USA debut against South African Lehlo Ledwaba, then 33-1-1 (22), on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya vs Javier Castillejo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on 23rd June 2001. As a late substitute for Enrique Sanchez, Pacquiao stepped in at just two weeks notice to challenge for Ledwaba’s IBF super bantamweight crown.
Pacquaio had had six fights at 122-pounds to acclimatise to the weight class since losing his WBC flyweight world title on the scales ahead of his bout with Medgoen Singsurat in 1999, a fight he ended up losing by TKO3 from a body shot. It was Ledwaba’s sixth defence of his world title. He was considered such an unbackable favourite that the bookmakers weren’t taking money on the fight.
The then-22 year-old southpaw gave it to the reigning champion from the get-go, breaking Ledwaba’s nose in the opening round and battering him around the ring for six savagely one-sided rounds before he was mercifully saved by referee Joe Cortez after the third knockdown of the fight.
“People were saying we must be crazy, that Ledwaba was unbeatable, a bit like Triple G [Gennady Golovkin] today, but Manny stopped him. I tried to get a good bet on Manny but they wouldn’t let me on,” Roach laughed.
Youth was served that summer night in the desert almost 16 years ago. And come 2nd July, half a world away in the southern hemisphere winter, we will wait to see if the boxing axiom is proven once again: it’s a young man’s game.