Where to begin with Manny Pacquiao?
Boxing’s only eight-division world champion would be forgiven for putting his career inside the ring behind him, given that he plans to run for president of his native Philippines next year.
However, as we know, boxing is a sport that many of its greatest names struggle to walk away from. Fighters are creatures of habit, and the repetition of preparing for a fight is something that they crave.
Having said that, if ‘Pac Man’ isn’t ready to call time on his illustrious career, who could begrudge him a couple of easy pay days before hanging up the gloves? He’s more than earned that right.
What’s that? He’s challenging Errol Spence Jr for his WBC and IBF welterweight titles? The same Errol Spence Jr that features in a whole host of pound-for-pound lists? You bet he is.
This is Manny Pacquiao we’re talking about. He isn’t like the others. The Filipino legend has been fighting in the professional ranks for over a quarter of a century. For context, when he made his pro debut back in January 1995, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was four-years old, the birth of Conor Benn was still four months away, and Errol Spence Jr himself had only celebrated his fifth birthday a matter of weeks earlier.
As recently as 2019, Pacquiao became the oldest welterweight champion in the history of the sport when, at the age of 40, he outpointed the highly rated Keith Thurman in Las Vegas. Such an achievement becomes even more incredible the further down the weights you go, when fighters rely on their reflexes more than in the heavier divisions.
So, what exactly does ‘Pac’ still have left to prove? In short. Nothing. But as previously mentioned, he isn’t like any other fighter.
In Spence Jr, he is facing an opponent in his prime and with some serious wins under his belt. In the last four years alone, ‘The Truth’ has beaten Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.
Speaking last year, Pacquaio’s long time trainer Freddie Roach admitted that he only has a couple of fights left, saying, “I think Manny will fight once or twice more before he becomes the president of his country. And then he will retire.”
In reality, the time and effort that it will take to successfully navigate leading his country as president simply doesn’t allow for a boxing career on the side. With that in mind, if this is to be Pacquiao’s last hurrah, what a way to sign off from a sport that loves him so much.
His twilight years in the sport are a far cry from those of his one-time rival Floyd Mayweather. As alluded to earlier, Mayweather has fought the very best in a career that also spans close to a quarter of a century, and has more than earned the right to fight whoever he wants at this stage of his boxing life.
Falling short of criticising a fighting legend, it is simply worth pointing out that Mayweather’s last fight was back in 2017 against a UFC fighter in Conor McGregor, and he is currently pulling off another marketing masterclass as he prepares for his June 6 showdown with YouTube sensation Logan Paul.
In the near four years that have passed since that Mayweather v McGregor bout, Pacquiao has successfully defended the WBA welterweight belt against Adrien Broner and Thurman.
His legacy in the sport is beyond question. Fight fans of a certain age will remember his dominant display against Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, and his upset victory over Marco Antonio Barrera five years earlier that sparked a stunning rivalry with a string of Mexican fighters. After that De La Hoya fight, he stopped Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto before playing his part in the richest fight of all time against Mayweather himself.
With a reported net worth of $220m, there is no real reason for Pacquaio to be taking in a fight of this magnitude at this stage in his career. He loves to fight, and we love him for it.
Make no mistake, the 42-year-old remains more than live in this fight, and Spence Jr will know exactly that. No matter the outcome, Manny Pacquiao has already established himself as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
However, a victory over Spence Jr may just be his best yet.