By Peter Lim
Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn is starkly reminiscent of Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks I in 1978 - an all-time great in the twilight of his career defending his title against an untested rookie.
Spinks was 6-0-1 (5 KOs), a pro for less than two years after winning a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, when he challenged a 36-year-old Ali (55-2, 37 KOs) for the most coveted prize in boxing. Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs), a 2012 Olympian, faces 38-year-old Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs).
The obvious disparity in experience is further magnified when taking into consideration that, in their heydays, both Ali and Pacquiao fought and defeated the cream of the crop during golden eras of their respective divisions.
Ali beat Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, all Hall-of-Famers and legends in their own rights. Likewise Pacquiao defeated fellow legends Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales during the golden era of 126-130 pound divisions. Above 130, he notched victories against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosely, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.
By contrast, Spinks' and Horn's level of opposition during their brief pro careers was nondescript to average at best. Ali-Spinks and Pacquiao-Horn represent the epitome of the experience-versus-youth showdown.
Two overlapping factors colluded to produce the monumental upset in 1978; Ali had underestimated Spinks and, as a result, undertrained, and Spinks capitalized on his youth to the max, delivering the most inspired and determined performance of his career that he was never again able to duplicate. Morphing into the Energizer Bunny, he swarmed Ali with hyper-hectic volume punching for 15 rounds, rarely giving the older man a moment to breathe let alone establish any kind of rhythm.
Reports that Pacquiao looked sloppier than usual during the initial phases of training camp suggest that he might be taking Horn less seriously than his previous opponents. But even if that were the case, it might not be enough, in and of itself, to tip the balance in Horn's favor. Against overwhelming odds, the Aussie will also have to elevate his game by leaps and bounds to pull off what Spinks did 39 years ago.
See prediction for Pacquiao vs. Horn at: http://peterliminator.blogspot.com/2017/06/manny-pacquiao-vs-jeff-horn.html