Manny Pacquiao seems to be down to two possible opponents for his first fights since a July 2019 win over Keith Thurman, as the Filipino icon told ABS-CBN that he’s “leaning toward” Mikey Garcia, but Terence Crawford remains in the discussion, too.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is 42 years old, but did still look like a top tier welterweight when we last saw him, beating a previously-unbeaten opponent and taking the WBA title. Pacquiao has since been relieved of the belt and moved to “champion-in-recess,” which allows for PBC to pit WBC/IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr against now-recognized WBA titlist Yordenis Ugas in a three-belt unification, most likely.
WBO titleholder Crawford (37-0, 28 KO) would be the bigger fight and certainly the more dangerous opponent, and it’s a bout Top Rank’s Bob Arum — Crawford’s current promoter and Pacquiao’s former promoter — said was close to being done for 2020 before financing fell through due to the COVID pandemic. Crawford, 33, has expressed real interest, but is also known to be negotiating with Shawn Porter.
Garcia (40-1, 30 KO) said about a week ago that a fight with Pacquiao was being finalized. It obviously hasn’t been made official yet, but Mikey sounded confident it would get done. It’s a fight the 33-year-old Garcia has wanted for a long time, and though he did lose every round to Errol Spence Jr when he moved up to welterweight in 2019, he bounced back with a better performance against Jessie Vargas in 2020, a competitive, close win for Garcia.
Both fights would have notable public interest. Pacquiao is old, but still easily one of the biggest active names in the sport, in some ways clearly the biggest active name in the sport.
Pacquiao-Crawford is easy to sell because it’s a huge star name against one of the best fighters in the sport who also has a solid fan base. That one I think you sell more on Pacquiao going after legacy against an in-prime great fighter, a three-division champion and someone you can call “best pound-for-pound,” even if everyone doesn’t.
Pacquiao-Garcia is easy to sell because you have Pacquiao’s name value, Garcia has some good name value, and Mikey’s a Mexican-American, and the Mexican base are still quite possibly the most loyal boxing audience there is. And it’s not hard to market the competition there, either; Mikey hasn’t looked great at 147, but Manny’s old and coming off a long layoff, and Garcia is a four-division champ.
If I had my druthers, personally, I’d go with Crawford. But I know some people also just aren’t wild about that idea, and I don’t think there’s a wrong choice here. And while neither of these fights have the mass appeal of what Pacquiao really wanted to do (Conor McGregor, who is out of the running after his January UFC loss), it’s a big fight and for boxing fans, either choice is far more compelling than McGregor would have been.