MANNY PACQUIAO will be back.
Despite only officially retiring in April, after he routed Timothy Bradley in their rubber match, the Filipino icon will grace the canvas again on November 5.
His promoter, Bob Arum, has confirmed this date and is already in discussions with Manny and his team over finalising an opponent. The comeback fight looks set to take place at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, which Arum has on hold for Pacquiao.
The U-turn on retirement isn’t exactly unexpected. Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has always maintained his long-term charge would return and, given the obscene amount of money Manny can still generate, it makes financial sense for him (and his team).
In fact, the main obstacle was Pacquiao’s political career. He was recently elected into the Filipino senate, upping his work load and responsibilities. Amid speculation that he was making a comeback, Pacquiao released a statement reiterating that any return to the ring would not encroach on his work in the government.
The November 5 date falls in the window when congress in the Philippines is on recess, however Pacquiao has said his entire training camp will take place in his home country, rather than at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in California.
At 37, Pacquiao is not the force he once was but, in dominating Bradley, proved he is still one of the finest fighters on the planet – his short hiatus is unlikely to change that. Whether he will jump back in at elite level remains to be seen though.
Arum has claimed there is a three man shortlist for Manny’s comeback fight which reads; Terence Crawford, Jessie Vargas and Danny Garcia.
At this stage, Garcia looks like the outsider to get the fight. He’s the only man out of those three not signed with Arum’s Top Rank, which would immediately make negotations more difficult. In fact, he is managed by Al Haymon who Arum insists he can work with, though broadcast affiliations could get in the way.
WBC welterweight champion Garcia is also mooted to be fighting on September 24 – though there has been no confirmation of that. He hasn’t fought since his 12 round decision over Robert Guerrero in January.
Vargas is the WBO welterweight champion and currently in need of a big fight. He was in deep negotiations to face IBF champion Kell Brook later this year, though Brook will instead jump two weight classes to fight Gennady Golovkin.
He’s promoted by Top Rank and coming off the back of a career-best win when he stopped Sadam Ali to win the vacant title. He’s expressed interest in fighting Bradley for a second time after losing on points to him last year, though insists he wants the “biggest fights” possible.
Crawford is the frontrunner, and the fight that makes the most sense. Last weekend he dominated Viktor Postol – Pacquiao’s former gym mate – to unify the WBO and WBC super-lightweight titles and confirm his status as one of the most talented fighters around.
Arum has tipped the unbeaten America for superstardom, and a high-profile fight with Pacquiao would do wonders for his profile – especially if he won, which is a distinct possibility. In fact, Roach has recently said that he does not want Pacquiao to fight Crawford, at least not yet.
He likened the Omaha native to a young Floyd Mayweather who, of course, beat Pacquiao last year. Roach wants Pacquiao to get a couple more fights under his belt before he takes on Crawford who now reigns supreme at 140lbs – a weight at which Roach feels Pacquiao is at his most effective.
‘Pacman’ had been operating at welterweight, though has not yet confirmed what weight he will return at.
The length of Pacquiao’s return has also not been spoken about, though judging from the current rhetoric it seems that it won’t just be for one fight.