By Jake Donovan
As boxing awaits the official announcement of Manny Pacquiao’s next – and perhaps final – opponent, his team prepares for what they plan to be a major event.
What has been confirmed so far is that the former eight-division champ will return to the ring on April 9, with the show to take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
A decision is expected to be made before 2015 comes to a close. Speculation has run rampant that Timothy Bradley will land a third fight with the Filipino superstar. The other working theory is that it will also serve as the final fight of Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame-bound career, as the current Congressman is campaigning for an open Senate seat in his native Philippines.
Should he win the election – which will take place in May – manning a senatorial seat requires a full-time commitment, which means severing all other ties not related to serving public office.
That said, his team plans to approach the April 9 Pay-Per-View event as the 66th fight of an incredible career, and not necessarily last call.
“We won’t sell it as Manny’s final fight,” Hall-of-Fame promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com. “We won’t do that for the simple fact that – anything could happen. Sure, it could very well be his last ever fight. But should he turn around one day and say he wants to fight again, we will look like a bunch of hucksters in selling the fight that way.
“I don’t want anyone accusing us of trying to tug at the heartstrings and claim this is it for Manny. Say for example, if Floyd Mayweather decides he wants to have one more fight, he’ll have to explain why he’s coming back after claiming he was done after the (Andre) Berto fight. We’re not going to put Manny in that position.”
The bout will be the first for Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38KOs) since a disappointing 12-round unanimous decision loss to Mayweather this past May. The night serves as the richest event in boxing history, with both fighters clearing nine-figure paydays for a show that established financial records that will likely never be broken.
What didn’t come of the night, however, was a full version of the 37-year old southpaw. Reports of a shoulder injury – suffered during training camp and reaggravated during the fight itself – added to what was a disappointing evening in the ring. It marked the end of his second tour as a welterweight titlist, a 13-month reign that began with an April ’14 revenge-fueled win over Bradley, against whom he lost his belt in a widely disputed split decision during their first meet in June ’12.
Pacquiao previously enjoyed title reigns (whether lengthy or one-and-done) at flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight and super welterweight. The eight weight classes in which he held at least one major title (or the lineal crown, as was the case in his otherwise beltless run at featherweight) is a boxing record that will last at least through his lifetime, though he still hopes for at least one more great memory – whether it’s the last or simply the next entry in his incredible career.
“Whether it’s the final fight, or “just” his next fight, we are going to pull out all of the stops and treat it like a big event,” insists Arum, who by that point will have celebrated his 50th year as a boxing promoter. “We’re going to dress it up with all of the bells and whistles, put on a strong undercard and present it as the first truly big PPV event of 2016.
“If it’s his last fight, then Manny can then announce his retirement afterward. We’re not going to make that the focal point of the promotion, though.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox