Say the name and you’re sure to get a reaction.
The huge majority would brand him a generational superstar thanks to a championship climb that’s earned him sanctioning body recognition in seven weight classes.
And even those who scoff at some of the achievements have no choice but to give him respect for still chasing greatness less than six months before his 43rd birthday.
His quarry this time? One Errol Spence Jr.
The 31-year-old Texan is unbeaten in 27 fights, has stopped 21 opponents before the final bell and has beaten five reigning or ex-champions in his six title matches at 147 pounds.
He was 8 years old when Pacquiao, then a flyweight, earned his first jewel-encrusted belt.
Still, the unlikely foes will come together on Aug. 21 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where Spence’s IBF and WBC straps will be on the line atop a Fox Sports PPV card that’ll go live at 9 p.m. ET.
The incumbent is a minus-220 favorite according to the linemakers at DraftKings, meaning it’ll take a $220 wager on Spence to return a $100 profit if he successfully defends his titles. Meanwhile, Pacquiao is sitting at plus-170 and would return $170 for a $100 outlay if he pulls off the upset.
And the Filipino seems cognizant of the task in front of him.
“You cannot underestimate Errol Spence,” Pacquiao told Boxing Scene.
“He is a legitimate champion and very talented. He is taller and younger than I am. These days, it seems like everyone I fight is taller and younger than I am. He throws a lot of punches.
“I consider Errol Spence one of the best pound-for-pound fighters and when you face someone on that list of course he becomes the biggest challenge of your career. It is a prestigious fight. I have just as much to prove in this fight as he does. It is a real fight; one that makes boxing great.”
Pacquiao began the U.S. portion of his training camp with longtime colleague Freddie Roach earlier this month in California, and Boxing Scene caught up with him in Los Angeles last week for a conversation about his preparation for Spence, his approach now that he’s in his 40s and his long-term career plans.
Boxing Scene: Here we are again. You’re 42 and climbing the highest competitive mountain. In your estimation, why and how is it possible? So many other fighters at this age, even if they want to continue to fight on a high level, are physically unable to remain relevant. Is it a gift you were born with that’s allowed you to have this longevity? Is it because of things you do, or things you don’t do?
Manny Pacquiao: It is both. God has blessed me with good health. It is a gift. But like any gift, I have a deep appreciation for it, and I take care of myself. I like to stay active. I play basketball daily, up to four games every day. I love it and it keeps me in shape. I always come into training camp in shape. Training camp should be for training, conditioning, and strategy, not for losing weight. You lose too much valuable time by not coming into training camp in shape.
Boxing Scene: A few months ago, it seemed like a Crawford fight was on the horizon. Then it became Spence and instantly got done. Was Crawford ever close to getting made? Did any conversations actually take place toward making that fight? Do you perceive Spence or Crawford as the biggest challenge at welterweight? Why?
Pacquiao: The only thing that matters is the fight that fight that was made. I do not want to get into comparisons because both are excellent fighters. I determined that the biggest event would be against Errol Spence. It helped that I was ringside to watch Spence fight Mikey Garcia in Dallas. He has a lot of fans.
Boxing Scene: I’ve spoken to many veteran boxers as they got into their 30s and 40s, and they talked about changes in the way they feel and changes in the way they prepare. How do you do things differently at age 42 than maybe you did five years ago or 10 years ago? Is preparation different? Do you feel your fight-night performances are different?
Pacquiao: I listen to my body. When I was younger, I thought the only way to train was all out every day for three to four hours daily in the gym, plus morning runs in Griffith Park up to the Hollywood sign in an all-out sprint. Now, I listen to my body. If I feel I need a day off for my body to recover from a hard workout, I take the day off, and it is always with Freddie’s blessing. I do not feel old. I feel strong and healthy and when I walk into the ring on fight night, I am excited. I still love the competition. I am always proud to fight as a Filipino, to bring honor and glory to the Philippines.
Boxing Scene: I’ve talked to a lot of fighters about how they approach a match strategically. There are some who watch all the tape they can of an opponent and come up with a plan based on what the opponent usually does or does not do. And others watch little tape and instead go with the mindset “I do what I do, and he’ll have to adjust to me.” For Spence, which side are you on and why?
Pacquiao: I was ringside when Errol Spence fought Mikey Garcia and I have watched a little tape, but for the most part, I work on being the best I can be physically and mentally because if I am not at my best, strategy and viewing tape is meaningless. Freddie and I have always worked together on strategy. We share a lot of ideas in every training camp. But most important is that I do every sit-up, throw every punch, and run every mile, every day. Never cut corners. It is all about hard work.
Boxing Scene: I know people have been asking you for years about your political aspirations and whether they distract you from the fighting side of your job. I’ve heard the answers before, but I’m curious if the recent issues with Mr. Duterte and your status within your political party make it any more difficult to navigate during training this time? How do you separate one from another?
Pacquiao: I have always been disciplined with time management. I am able to compartmentalize my training duties from legislative duties and family life. During training camp in Los Angeles, around midnight, I am on Zoom attending meetings with staff and the Senate for several hours daily. I just need to keep to the schedule that allows me to make the most and best use of my time. I am never in recess.
Boxing Scene: How important is how you're perceived? I know a lot of fighters say they don't pay attention, but a lot of others do. Where do you come out on that scale? And five years from now, when people bring up Manny Pacquiao's career, what things do you hope they'll say? And what do you wish they wouldn't say?
Pacquiao: A few years ago, I would have said I was satisfied with my position in boxing and my achievements. Now I think differently. Maybe it is age or experience, but I appreciate each recent fight I have because each fight may be my last for any number of reasons. Before the pandemic closed everything down, I was very proud of the string of welterweight title victories I had in a 12-month period – Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman. I became the oldest man to win a welterweight title. It is almost like I have had several careers in boxing and the one I am in now makes me think, if I can keep winning against elite-level fighters, perhaps I can be in the discussion of being one of the greatest fighters of all time instead of being one of the greatest fighters of my era. Of course, that is not for me to decide but I would like to make my case before I do retire.
Boxing Scene: Obviously, this isn’t a fight you’d have taken unless you thought you’d win it. So, why will you win it? What can you do that Spence won’t be able to contend with and what will the fight look like in August if things are going well for you?
Pacquiao: I am not going to share my strategy. This is going to be a great fight for the fans. Two southpaws who share the same aggressive styles of fighting. There is no “B Side” in this fight. We are going to bring out the best in each other, and you cannot ask for more than that. It is a fight that will bring boxing back to the front page. Yes, I think I can win. I think that for every fight. But this one is different because I need to fight the perfect fight. Literally. I cannot make a mistake. I need to execute the game plan perfectly and that is the real challenge. Can I do that? No one is perfect but for a fight like this, it is all uphill and that is why I am working so hard in the gym. It is the ultimate challenge. Body and mind need to be perfectly in sync for the entire fight for me to succeed against Errol Spence. It will be a big test of physical and mental endurance.
Boxing Scene: When the time comes that you stop fighting, what is it that'll determine it? Will you fight as long as you’re successful? Will you fight as long as you still feel at your best, so in theory you could still be going at 45 or 50? Or is there a timeline in your head that you'll adhere to?
Pacquiao: There is no timeline. Freddie and I have always had an agreement that when he sees something in a fight or in training camp that signals it may be time to end my boxing career, we will have that discussion. There is no set date or age.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO super flyweight title – Site TBA, South Africa
Gideon Buthelezi (champion/No. 28 IWBR) vs. Sabelo Ngebinyana (No. 33 IBO/No. 63 IWBR)
Buthelezi (22-5, 5 KO): Sixth title defense; Previous IBO title reigns at 105, 108 and 115 pounds
Ngebinyana (13-4, 10 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight scheduled for 12 rounds (2-2, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Buthelezi is a 35-year-old who’s independently ranked 28th. So, he’s hardly infallible. But the foe here is substandard. He should defend successfully. Buthelezi by decision (70/30)
This week’s trash title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” featherweight title – Brentwood, United Kingdom
Can Xu (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Leigh Wood (No. 12 WBA/No. 76 IWBR)
Why it’s trash: Another day in the WBA. Though he’s not fought in the weight class in 29 months – while fighting twice elsewhere – Leo Santa Cruz is listed as the organization’s top-tier champ. That’s a slight to Xu, who seems to be a legit commodity at 126. But until he’s recognized up top, he’s just a contender.
Last week's picks: None
2021 picks record: 26-7 (78.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,182-382 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.