By Francisco Salazar
Nothing or no one will convince Manny Pacquiao to hang up his gloves, even after his decision win over Timothy Bradley in April of last year (remember how he said he would retire?).
Pacquiao continued his career after the highlight-reel knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December of 2012. Neither did the boring decision loss to Floyd Mayweather two and a half years later.
Even his responsibilities as a senator in the Philippines are not enough to give up the sport.
With numerous opportunities on the horizon, including a possible clash against unbeaten Terence Crawford, Pacquiao is going to continue marching forward.
There will be a lot on the line Saturday night when Pacquiao paces up his gloves for the 68th time as a professional. He faces off against an unbeaten underdog in Jeff Horn at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
The fight will air live on ESPN, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT. It will mark the first time the future Hall-of-Fame fighter will fight on basic cable in the United States and the first time in 12 years Pacquiao will not fight on a pay-per-view platform.
The fight card is the first in a new multi-year agreement between ESPN and Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao. ESPN will broadcast Top Rank cards, mostly on Friday and Saturday nights.
Pacquiao (59-6-2, with 38 knockouts) has not fought since a one-sided 12 round decision victory over Jessie Vargas on Nov. 5. Pacquiao won the WBO World welterweight title in the process.
The southpaw from General Santos City in the Philippines is not the same fighter who buzzed through future Hall-of-Fame fighters over the last several years, such as Erik Morales, Timothy Bradley, and Marco Antonio Barrera, defeating all three fighters twice.
With the accolades from the success in the ring have also come the criticism from boxing scribes and fans, mostly at Pacquiao for not knocking out his opponents. It is a stupid criticism, considering most of Pacquiao's opposition have been physically bigger or have strong chins.
Pacquiao has dropped the likes of Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Shane Mosley and Chris Algieri in recent fights. He has also battered the likes of Antonio Margarito and Brandon Rios, even though he did not score a knockdown.
Again, Pacquiao wins fights. Does it really matter if he has to knock out his opposition?
Despite his age (and lack of knockout power from critics), Pacquiao is still an elite fighter, easily amongst the top five best welterweights in boxing today.
Pacquiao will square off against a fighter who is 10 years younger, and has about four times less fights than Pacquiao.
Horn (16-0-1, with 11 KOs) is the mandatory challenger to Pacquiao's world title, but has not fought anyone close to the fighters Pacquiao has faced in the last 10 years.
Aside from a longer reach and a four-inch height advantage, the only thing Horn has in his favor is that he is fighting in his hometown, where a crowd of over 50,000 is expected. Pacquiao is not overlooking Horn.
"Jeff Horn is okay," said Pacquiao after a recent workout earlier this week. "I've watched videos of his fights. He brings a lot of action into the ring. I know what he is feeling (because) I remember everything about my first world title fight."
"I am ready for Jeff to come out and be aggressive. If he does that, it will be a great fight for the fans."
There is talk of a fight of Pacquiao fighting in the Philippines in the fall, but promoter Bob Arum is hoping to put together a fight between Pacquiao and unbeaten WBC/ WBO junior welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford, who hails from Omaha, Neb.
For a fight in the Philippines or against Crawford to take place this fall, Pacquiao cannot afford a loss to Horn. Pacquiao's edge has returned as he reportedly knocked down sparring partners on two different occasions in preparation for the Horn fight.
Even Pacquiao had some parting words for Horn, who used to be a schoolteacher before dedicating himself to the sweet science.
"I know Jeff Horn used to be a teacher. In the ring, I'm a teacher too."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene.com since September of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing