The buzz is everywhere. Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor Benn, likely in Abu Dhabi, June 3.
This would be the 44-year-old Pacquiao’s first “real,” non-exhibition fight since he was upset via unanimous decision by Yordenis Ugas in August of 2021.
It would also be lose-lose for the Filipino icon, but more on that later.
The Ugas loss was an ugly one and it seemed like a bright, glaring sign that it was time for the future first ballot Hall of Famer to finally hang up his gloves. Given how sluggish and “off” Manny looked against the Cuban, fans shuddered at the thought of what original opponent Errol Spence (who had to withdraw from the bout due to a retinal tear) might’ve done to the modern day legend.
The former multi-division world champ would then take an exhibition bout against South Korean YouTuber/Martial Artist DK Yoo this past December in Seoul. It appeared to mark the “this time for sure” retirement of Manny Pacquiao and the start of what could’ve been an entertaining and lucrative run on the exhibition boxing circuit, ala arch rival Floyd Mayweather.
Now, however, Pacquiao is said to be coming back to the “real” world of boxing and looking for a “real” opponent.
“He retired for a minute to run for President of the Philippines, where he took a respectful third place,” long-time Pacquiao adviser and president of MP Promotion’s Sean Gibbons recently told ESPN. “And after that he felt that his retirement was due to running for president, and now that [he wasn’t elected], he wants to fight again and feels like he can do it at the highest level.
“Manny is an all-time great and he feels like he still has a lot of fight left in him and he still wants to compete at the highest level. And this fight [vs. Benn] was presented to him by [promoter] Eddie Hearn, and he agreed. Ball is in Eddie Hearn’s court. Pacquiao ready to go.”
“Manny Pacquiao, this is what he’s been doing his whole life, boxing, and he feels like he has a lot left to to give in boxing,” Gibbons added. “He wants to fight; doesn’t matter if it’s Conor Benn or it’s Kell Brook. Manny is a fighter, and it’s what he wants to do: fight.”
Hearn, meanwhile, is said to be exploring options for his fighter, with Pacquiao being the biggest name among those options.
“We are in the process of selecting Conor Benn’s next opponent and have been in active talks with Manny Pacquiao’s team,” Hearn told ESPN. “We have had multiple site offers to stage the event and are looking to make an official announcement on Conor’s next fight as early as next week.”
But, honestly, what does Pacquiao really gain from beating Conor Benn, who’s name is still muddied from a positive test for the banned substance clomiphene last August? The 26-year-old son of Nigel Benn, despite being fully reinstated by the WBC, is still on suspension from regulatory bodies in his native UK. His “I ate too many eggs that may have been tainted” excuse has not swayed many fans to accept his innocence, either.
On top of that, the second generation fighter is not exactly an established world class fighter at this point in his career. His body of work thus far– with high-water victories over former Pacquiao foe Chris Algieri, Adrian Granados, and Chris van Heerden– is as slim as expected from a young fighter just starting to make his mark.
Pacquiao beating Benn at this stage of Benn’s career wouldn’t mean all that much. However, Pacquiao losing to (or looking bad against) a still-developing Conor Benn, would be a major blow to Pacquiao and his comeback aspirations. It may even take a nibble out of Manny’s formidable legend.
Pacquiao would be better advised, at least in this writer’s opinion, taking on an opponent with equal name value to Benn, who’s at a similar career stage to his own, such as a Kell Brook or a Josesito Lopez. Then, down the line, he can revisit a bout with a Conor Benn, who is better established as a world class fighter and more clear of his PEDs controversy.