BRISBANE — Manny Pacquiao isn’t saying it publicly, preferring not to dwell too much on landing a knockout blow.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, isn’t pulling any punches, though. Roach reckons the WBO welterweight world championship fight against Jeff Horn Sunday will be “short and sweet.”
“Manny is in great shape,” Roach said. “He doesn’t like to predict knockouts, but I do. It’s going to be short and sweet. If Horn comes out likes he says he’s gonna, Manny will fire back. I think it’s going to be a great fight but it won’t last too long — someone will get knocked out.”
Pacquiao, who hasn’t won by knockout since 2009, said he has a few strategies to handle Horn, who is unbeaten in 17 fights since turning pro in 2013. The 38-year-old Philippines senator has knocked sparring partners down in training and said he’s feeling better than he has in a while.
Roach said the training camp has been more like a vintage Pacquiao preparation.
“The thing is, in sparring, we haven’t had knockdowns and knockouts in a long time. This time we did,” the legendary trainer said. “Manny has been his old self, having fun and doing what he does best.”
Pacquiao said he likes to fight boxers in front of their home crowd, and recalled a similar bout with Marco Antonio Barrera at San Antonio, Texas, in 2003.
“I feel excited for the fight. Everything is all set,” he said. “I like to fight a home advantage of my opponent so that there are a lot of fans cheering for him. That gives me a lot of motivation, determination and focus to win the fight. I’m not taking it lightly. I’m seriously focused.”
Roach ridiculed Horn's 2016 win over former champion Randall Bailey, who was way past his best at the time of that fight.
But even Bailey, who claims that he struggled to make weight for Horn, is backing Pacquiao to win.
“I don’t think Horn’s power will be a factor. And if he let Pacquiaog o with movement and combination punching, he’ll be in big trouble. I like Horn but on that level, you have to have something special and I haven’t seen that special factor yet with Horn,” Bailey told The Manila Times.
"But we will definitely find that out in the fight. Don’t get me wrong. Pacquiao is not the same fighter five years ago. What we want to know is do Horn have the goods to close the door on Pacquiao’s era? I wouldn’t [be surprised if Pacquiao knocks Horn out]. It all depends on what’s left on Pacquiao."
The afternoon fight is being dubbed the “Battle of Brisbane” and will be staged at the outdoor Suncorp Stadium, with an expected crowd of more than 50,000 and in forecast sunny skies and a high of about 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit).
It will be broadcast live on the US east coast at 9 p.m. Saturday by ESPN, with Pacquiao’s handlers expecting the timing to expose the Filipino boxer to millions of new fans.