By Rich Cheney: Manny Pacquiao’s long dry spell for knockouts could end this Saturday night in his fight against challenger Jeff Horn, says trainer Freddie Roach. He’s counting on a quick knockout win for the 38-year-old Pacquiao in his fight with the unbeaten Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
Pacquiao needs a superior performance against Horn to bring back his PPV audience, which has seemingly deserted him entirely since 2016. Pacquiao’s fight with Horn will be televised on ESPN this Saturday on July 1.
The fact that it’s free means there will be a large audience to see Pacquiao and Horn battle it out. The number of viewers watching the Pacquiao-Horn fight could end up being by far the largest viewing audience Pacquiao has ever enjoyed for a fight in the U.S. Pacquiao’s previous biggest audience was the Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight in 2015, which was seen by 4.6 million viewers, who ordered it on pay-per-view.
Pacquiao’s promoter believes that 10 million Americans will be tuning in on ESPN this Saturday to watch him fight Jeff Horn. Arum is obviously counting on those fans wanting to pay to see Pacquiao’s future fights when he switches back to having his fights televised on PPV.
Roach sees the 29-year-old Horn as having a good style for Manny to defeat by knockout, especially if the Australian fighter comes right at him. Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) could really use a knockout right now to help revitalize his boxing career. Pacquiao has seen his PPV numbers deteriorate badly in his last two contests against Jessie Vargas and Tim Bradley. To be sure, the match-making being done by Pacquiao’s 85-year-old promoter Bob Arum has been questionable, and likely the main reason why his PPV numbers have been dropping off. But another reason that could be just as important for the big drop off in PPV buys for Pacquiao is his lack of knockouts.
The reality is Pacquiao’s fights lack drama nowadays, and it’s been 8 years since Pacquiao was last involved in a fight that ended with him getting a knockout win when he stopped Miguel Cotto in round 12 of their fight in 2009. Pacquiao’s most exciting fight since then was his 6th round stoppage loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012.
“He’s won three in a row by knockout. They’re talking about him coming to Manny, being very aggressive, dirty and rough, trying to rough Manny up,” said Roach to Rappler about Jeff Horn being the perfect guy for Pacquiao to knockout. “It sounds like the perfect scenario to me. I love when people come to Manny. When people come to Manny, he eats them up on the way in.” said Roach.
Horn is likely going to be fighting cautiously against Pacquiao, not aggressively like Roach envisions. Horn isn’t really an all-out aggressive type of fighter anyway. He’s careful in the way he fights. Horn likes to come forward and land some shots, and then get away to avoid the return fire. Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) doesn’t stay in the pocket to battle it out with his opponents, because he doesn’t have the chin to fight in an aggressive manner. If Horn were more aggressive, he’s have a better knockout ratio the 65% that he currently has.
Pacquiao needs to be ready for Horn’s hit and run style of fighting. Hopefully, Roach has prepared him for this type of fight by Horn, because this is clearly how he’s going to be fighting on Saturday night. Horn isn’t going to come forward looking to take his head off and stay in the pocket. Horn will try and use his size, reach and power on Pacquiao to win either a decision or a late knockout.
The only way that Pacquiao can get a knockout early against Horn is if he chases him around the ring and forces him to brawl with him. For that to happen, Pacquiao will need to throw sustained combinations like he used to. Pacquiao has gotten away from that style of fighting in the last 8 years of his career. The last fight that Paquiao threw sustained combinations was in his win over Cotto. Pacquiao was younger then, and more equipped to throw combinations.
I don’t think Pacquiao is willing or physically able to attack Jeff Horn with a flurry of shots. Pacquiao can surely throw 100 punches in a round for a brief period of time, but it would be a risky thing for him to do because he might gas out. Pacquiao can’t afford to gas out against a guy as big as the 5’9” Horn. This is a big fighter for Pacquiao, 5’6 ½”, to be mixing it up with. If Pacquiao is confident that he can recover physically from emptying out his gas tank by flurrying on Horn, then he should do it. If not, then he’ll need to fight the Australian at a slow pace like the one we’ve been seeing from him in the last eight years.
“I’m hoping, yes, but it’s been a long time,” said Roach when asked if he’s counting on Pacquiao scoring a knockout over Jeff Horn. “No predictions now, but I’ll be very happy if he gets it done early, yes,” said Roach.
Pacquiao definitely needs a knockout if he wants to increase his PPV buy rate. The boxing public isn’t going to want to dump their hard-earned money on paying to see Pacquiao go the distance in fights against the likes of Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas. Pacquiao needs to show the boxing fans that he can still knockout his opposition.
Here is what Pacquiao needs to do for him to increase his PPV buy rate to where it was in the past:
– Take a risk by going all out to knockout Jeff Horn. This means not being afraid to get knocked out in order to score a knockout over Horn. Pacquiao can’t play Mr. nice guy against Horn.
– Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has to start matching him against popular and relevant fighters once again. The match-making that the 85-year-old Arum is doing for Pacquiao is not helping him remain popular in my view. Arum is putting Pacquiao in with too many lackluster fighters like Chris Algieri, Tim Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Brandon Rios and Jeff Horn. Those are big names at welterweight. Bradley used to be a big name, but he’s past it now. Arum needs to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s not only Pacquiao needing knockouts to increase his popularity. He needs to be matched against the right guys. Arum isn’t doing that for him since his loss to Mayweather.
“A lot of the time they fight for the crowd,” said Roach in explaining why it might not be an advantage for Jeff Horn to be fighting at home in front of a large fan friendly crowd in Brisbane, Australia. “It’s not always really good to be the hometown guy. I like being the road warrior,” said Roach.
Pacquiao will have the large crowd of 50,000 boxing fans rooting against him on Saturday night in the Horn fight. Roach thinks it’s not a big deal. We’ll have to see about that. If Horn can fight to a higher level because of the fan support, then he could defeat Pacquiao. It’s true that fighters sometimes fight to the crowd in a negative sense by being overly aggressive, but I’d say in most cases, it helps the home fighter to be fighting in front of a large supportive audience. It causes the home fighter to reach their potential when they start to second guess their selves or get tired. They get energy from the crowd and can get the win.
That was never more the case than in the recent fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko. Things looked bleak for Joshua following a knockdown in the 6th round. Wladimir dominated rounds 6 through 9, and it looked as if he was going to cruise to a win. However, the pro-Joshua crowded started cheering loudly for Joshua in the 10th round, and he responded by taking back control of the fight and knocking Wladimir out in the 11th. You can argue that without the crowd support in the 10th, Joshua would have wound up losing the fight by a knockout or a point decision.
“100 percent, yes; I do think that,” said Roach in agreeing that Pacquiao fighting on free television on ESPN will remind the boxing public that he’s still a viable fighter at this point in his career. “ESPN picking up the show in America, pay-per-view audience coming back, we’ll see more of Manny,” said Roach.
At this point, I don’t think Pacquiao is going to be able to take advantage of the substantial number of boxing fans that will be seeing his fight with Horn on Saturday. For Pacquiao to get his PPV numbers back to the high levels it once was, it’s going to take a lot more than a fight against Jeff Horn for that to happen. That’s what Roach and Bob Arum fail to see. You don’t get super popular by beating an unknown fighter like Horn. You get popular by beating talented fighters like Errol Spence and Keith Thurman. Arum hasn’t matched Pacquiao against either of those fighters despite their interest in wanting to fight him.