BRISBANE, Australia — Manny Pacquiao has ducked and weaved, has been accused of being late and rude, and of thinking more about a Floyd Mayweather rematch than his WBO welterweight world title fight against Jeff Horn.
Pacquiao and Horn easily made weight at the Saturday morning weigh-in, and the Filipino senator did a quick TV interview before making a swift exit from Suncorp Stadium to eat.
Locals have grumbled that Pacquiao only attended an official pre-fight lunch for a few minutes on Friday, and Horn’s camp accused Pacquiao earlier in the week of holding up the official news conference and then constantly texting on his cellphone through the event.
What nobody can complain about is the pulling power of the 11-time world champion. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the outdoor bout on Sunday afternoon, and the so-called “Battle of Brisbane” is expected to set records for pay-per-view in Australia.
For the first time since 2005, a Pacquiao fight hasn’t been restricted to pay-per-view in America. ESPN will broadcast the fight to an estimated 95 million U.S. homes in prime time Saturday night.
“This is the time that I give back to the fans,”Pacquiao said, adding that he’d suggested “let’s do free TV for the fans,” to Top Rank promotor Bob Arum.
“I have to give a good show for them,” he added. “This is it. I’m excited.”
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 knockouts) is defending the WBO title he won on points against Jessie Vargas last November. That was one of the two fights he’s had — the other was a points win over Tim Brady in April of last year — since he lost the 2015 mega fight to Mayweather.
Legendary trainer Freddie Roach has predicted a knockout against Horn, saying Pacquiao is perfectly prepared and the fight should be “short and sweet.”
Pacquiao hasn’t won by knockout since 2009, but Roach said the 38-year-old eight-division champ has knocked down sparring partners and is in vintage form.
“Freddie is very happy because that snap is back, the power is there,” Pacquiao said in an interview with ESPN after the weigh-in. “I feel good. Weight is not a problem. Let’s get it on.”
Roach believes Pacquiao’s boxing future depends on how the fight goes against Horn. If he were to lose, Roach said he’d likely recommend retirement. A comfortable win would add ammunition for a rematch with Mayweather.
Pacquiao has more than a decade of experience in this environment, and said he likes to take on a boxer who has hometown advantage because he enjoys the extra buzz. Horn (16-0-1, 11 knockouts) is unbeaten in his 17 fights since turning pro in 2013, but has never confronted anyone of Pacquiao’s calibre.
Experience, “is my advantage,” Pacquiao said. “But I want to make sure that I … use it properly and maximize it.”
Pacquiao tipped the scales at 66.1 kilograms (146 pounds) on Saturday, and Horn weighed in at 63.35 kilograms (147 pounds) after shedding 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) in recent days.
Horn, a former school teacher and Olympic quarterfinalist before turning pro, said he had the reach and weight advantages over Pacquiao, and had the range of punches that could cause the Filipino great some trouble.
During the week, he has talked about being disrespected amid talk of another Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, and said he had the weapons to knock out Pacquiao.
“Game face is on. School is out,” Horn said. “I just keep that in my mind, what I’m going to have to do in the ring, which will upset Manny.”