Whether the result in Brisbane, Australia was fair or not — and most of our readers don’t believe that it was — there’s no doubt that Manny Pacquiao is now facing some big questions.
At 38, Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KO) is 5-4 over his last nine fights. Two of the losses are debatable (at best) decisions, but there’s no question that he’s past his prime. He also had legitimate and clear losses to Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather in that time frame, and his wins over Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley (twice), Chris Algieri, and Jessie Vargas have lacked a little spark.
Before the fight with Jeff Horn, we wondered if Manny might score his first stoppage since 2009. He did not. He came fairly close in a ninth round assault of the Aussie, but Horn survived and came back well in the next round, earning the referee’s trust, finishing the fight, and ultimately scoring a shocking decision win.
I thought Pacquiao won that fight. I also thought he looked old, perhaps ill-prepared, as if he hadn’t taken the fight with Horn seriously. Horn (17-0-1, 11 KO) showed aggression from the opening bell, seemingly catching Pacquiao off-guard in the first round. He showed Manny no respect. Jeff Horn didn’t fight like someone who came to cash a check, or came just to say in his golden years that he once shared a ring with the great Manny Pacquiao.
Jeff Horn came to win. And at times, that did give Pacquiao trouble. Not enough for a win, in my estimation, but enough that it made Pacquiao look not just like less of a fighter than he was a decade or eight years ago, but like less of a fighter than he was last November, when he beat Vargas by wide decision.
Pacquiao likely will take the rematch with Horn. He said on the ESPN broadcast after the fight that he would exercise his rematch clause. (He also said, for whatever it’s worth, that he’d caught a cold when he arrived in Australia, while also saying he didn’t want to make any excuses.)
But should Manny rematch Horn? Should he fight anyone at this point?
Maybe it was a case of not taking the opponent seriously. Maybe he’ll come back next time and dominate Horn. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe, now that he’s a long-wealthy Senator in the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao’s boxing days should be behind him. Maybe it’s just not truly in him anymore.
I can say this: Pacquiao did not fight well. In many ways, his spottiness in the ring in this fight, taking long stretches where he didn’t do much at all, not looking like himself, allowing Horn to press and look like he was doing something while Manny didn’t do much offensively, gave Jeff Horn this fight, at least unless you believe that there was true corruption going on.
Personally, I don’t buy into that narrative. I think Manny Pacquiao won. But I also think that Pacquiao was a shadow of his former self, even the one from last year. Forget 2007, 2009, or 2011. What about last year? What about the 37-year-old Pacquiao who beat Bradley and Vargas?
He didn’t look like that fighter anymore. I can’t answer why. I can speculate. And none of the speculation speaks well of his chances to go on as a top fighter.
These days, of course, come to every fighter if he fights long enough. Pacquiao’s had a 22-year pro career, a lot of hard fights, a lot of miles in the ring and in the gym, and time — and even success — has caught up with him.
Perhaps Pacquiao will be motivated by this loss, hit the gym hard for a rematch, and come in better than he was for this fight. It’s entirely possible. But what then? Does he fight Horn a third time to settle the score? Does he pass his flickering torch to Terence Crawford?
I don’t expect Pacquiao to retire. I don’t imagine him wanting to hang up the gloves on a controversial loss, especially one he surely feels he has the ability to avenge. But it’s arguable that he should. There’s nothing left for him to prove — and if there is, he’s probably no longer good enough to prove it.