If one were to take Manny Pacquiao’s words for gospel, there’d be reason to speculate about a possible comeback to “for real” boxing.
“Of course. I can fight Terence Crawford or Spence,” Manny told Lance Pugmire of FightHype.com in a recent interview, responding to the possibility of a real boxing comeback against the elite of the welterweight class. “I’m eager to fight with them, to test them, [to see] if they are really a champion, because I’ve been fighting with a lot of fighters at 147, 140, 135…I’ve been fighting with the best fighters in the world. So, I want to test them.”
Of course, this was an interview to hype Manny’s December 10 exhibition bout with South Korean YouTuber DK Yoo. One wouldn’t expect the Filipino icon to say “Hell no, I’m old and I don’t want to get beaten up by someone who can actually fight!” Plus, the man is a competitor and he does probably believe that he can still hang with the very best in the sport. He IS just under a year-and-a-half removed from his last “real” boxing match against a “real” opponent (although it was a decision loss to Yordenis Ugas).
But let’s assume that Pacquiao does decide to come back and make one more run in the welterweight division. What would be the plan? How far could he go?
The multi-division former world champ just turned 44, but he keeps himself in good shape and, based on his last performance or two (not the exhibition, the actual fights), he still has speed and pop to keep him among the upper tier of competitors.
A world title would mean him having to go through IBF/WBA/WBC champ Errol Spence or WBO champ Terence Crawford. Both would represent tall orders. Many feel that Pacquiao was spared a brutal beat down when August, 2021 original opponent, Spence, had to pull out of their fight due to retinal injury. Replacement foe, Ugas, was nowhere near as offensively gifted as Spence. Crawford, who is at the top of his game and brutally efficient on offense, could also put a hurting on Manny.
There’s also the reality that neither champ would even sign on to face Pacquiao at this point. The former pound-for-pound great may be considered too far gone, competitively, to provide either a boost as a fall guy.
“I wouldn’t fight him, I probably wouldn’t fight him,” Errol Spence said of Pacquiao in an interview with ESNews. “I wouldn’t fight him. Like you can see the stigma that—Larry Holmes is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. One of the greatest fighters of all time. I feel like he don’t get the respect that he deserves. Or like people just don’t regard him. People really don’t just talk about him.
“I think that’s all because how he beat Muhammad Ali—he f***ed him up in that fight. I don’t really think people consider him [elite]. Nobody really talk about Larry Holmes. I think it’s all because of that.”
Next-level opposition would be just as daunting for Pacquiao, as he’d likely have to meet guys like Jaron “Boots” Ennis or Vergil Ortiz Jr., 20-something offensive beasts who are quick, strong, and supremely hungry. A bout with either could take a nasty turn.
What would be left, then? If Pacquiao can’t go after the champs and would be wise to avoid the top contenders, why would he bother to come back?
In boxing, there’s always the possibility of a sanctioning body producing yet another “world” title belt. With the money Manny can still generate, one of the alphabet groups would surely be fine with inventing some sort of “regular” or “semi-super” title to accommodate a big fight (and big sanctioning fee). Manny could go after one of those.
He could also go after an old score or two to settle.
He could face Yordenis Ugas a second time in a “revenge” bout. Ugas was just blown away by Spence in his last fight and would probably be eager to take a big-money Pacquiao contest. Keith Thurman, who Pacquiao beat in July of 2019, might also be eager to entertain the idea of a rematch. A second clash with Floyd Mayweather is at the top of Pacquiao’s personal wish list, but unlikely to happen.
There’s also the possibility of a comeback tour of sorts, where the future first ballot Hall of Famer could fight a few second and third-tier opponents at different venue over the next couple of years, culminating with, perhaps, one last blowout event in his native Philippines.
Even at 44, Manny Pacquiao COULD come back as an active fighter. It probably wouldn’t be at an elite-level and it would likely be more for show purposes than for a true run at the top, but, for his legion of fans, some Pacquiao may be better than no Pacquiao.