BRISBANE –Manny Pacquiao has had bigger, more significant fights while compiling world titles in an unprecedented eight divisions.
The 38-year-old senator from the Philippines may not have fought in front of a bigger crowd, though, than what promoters are predicting for Pacquiao’s “Battle of Brisbane” on July 2 against Jeff Horn.
The on-again-off-again fight was confirmed after a rich deal for a Pacquiao-Amir Khan bout in the Middle East fell through.
Pacquiao and Horn met for the first time Wednesday at the venue where local promoters are expecting a crowd of 55,000 for the WBO welterweight world title bout.
That, at least according to veteran American promotor Bob Arum, would beat Pacquiao’s biggest live crowd to date – 50,994 at Cowboys Stadium in Texas
Suncorp Stadium, usually the home ground for the Brisbane Broncos in Australia’s National Rugby League and the annual State-of-Origin rugby league grudge match, has witnessed pretty of brawls, but none of them sanctioned like this one.
Pacquiao is putting his WBO title on the line against Horn, a trained teacher who took up boxing because he was bullied at high school, had his first professional bout in 2013, and is 16-0-1.
“If you ask inside my heart, I have confidence to win the fight, but I’m not taking it lightly,” said Pacquiao, who has 11 major world titles and has a record of 59-6-2, with 38 knockouts. “I’m not underestimating him.”
Since losing to Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in April, 2015, a fight which generated a world record 4.4 million pay-per-view buys, Pacquiao has had two fights – wins over Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas on either side of a brief retirement. The win over Vargas in November earned Pacquiao his third reign as the WBO welterweight champion.
When Pacquiao arrived in Australia, he said he didn’t know a lot about Horn, but knew the 29-year-old Australian had the kind of style that would make for an entertaining fight.
“I want an opponent that wants to fight toe-to-toe, throwing a lot of punches, aggressive,” Pacquiao said. “My style is to throw a lot of punches and I believe that will be very effective for Jeff Horn’s style. That’s why I accepted this fight.
Arum, who sat beside Pacquiao at the news conference Wednesday and first saw Horn fight in New Zealand last November, compared the bout with a young lion lying in wait to challenge on old one.
“This fight certainly has that theme,” he said.
The packed news conference was a new experience for Horn, who says he’s raw compared with Pacquiao but raring to go.
“He’s done so much. He’s fought a lot of champions,” Horn said. But, “If he underestimates me, he’s going to know about it July 2. It’s going to be a very tough fight – he’s going to see that.”