Muhammad Ali couldn’t believe it and neither could the rest of the world. Almost 40 years ago, an aged Ali faced Leon Spinks, he of only seven professional fights, for the Heavyweight title. To the surprise of everyone, Spinks outhustled an out of shape, overconfident Ali and did the unthinkable when he won the title with a razor-thin decision. Embarrassed and humbled, Ali went into the rematch looking to right the wrong from the first fight and handled Spinks with ease. Ali realized at the time that if he needed to be at his absolute best to beat somebody like Spinks that his career was over, and outside of two ill-advised comebacks in the following years, he was right.
So why bring that up? Mostly because I want to be the first smarty pants writer that makes the correlation of Ali/Spinks ahead of the impending rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn.
Nobody knew who Jeff Horn was and less people thought he’d even be competitive against Pacquiao, let alone win. Pacquiao had to be so far gone for a nobody like Horn to hold his own in the ring against him, and while Pacquiao has been inching closer to the end of his career for some time now, he just came off a banner year where he beat both Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas in convincing fashion after being methodically dominated by rival Floyd Mayweather the year prior.
Not only did Horn do the unthinkable, but he’s going to have a chance to double down on his shocking win. Now there is the likelihood that Pacquiao can very well turn the tables just like Ali did all those years ago, but their circumstances couldn’t be any more different. Ali and Pacquiao clearly went for the money grab so late in their respective careers, but Ali came in terrible shape for the first fight and had developed a knack throughout his career in not being a physical specimen. Pacquiao was in shape, perhaps overconfident, but was fighting fit and ready for what the night had in store.
The problem became very apparent when Horn took everything Manny had, including a horrifying ninth round beating, and kept coming after him like an unkillable zombie. Horn dwarfed Pacquiao and left him a bloodied mess, too exhausted post-fight that we had to wait the weekend to hear his sore loser schtick. Freddie Roach urged Manny to pick up the pace, but as the fight developed, it was apparent Pacquiao was fighting against a guy that was all wrong for him.
A rematch will be no different. Manny Pacquiao will take another “L” to Jeff Horn come November for more reasons besides the fact that he’s the wrong guy for Manny at this stage of his career.
Most people who watched the fight believed that Pacquiao lost due to shoddy judging, officiating and boxing politics, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Pacquiao was fighting in Horn’s backyard by choice and referee Mark Nelson was legitimately awful, but the judges saw a close fight and scored it for the guy who kept coming forward and may have been influenced by the crowd. Because money is Pacquiao’s primary motivator, he has agreed to stage the rematch in Australia once again and will face off against a guy that was tough enough to handle the first time around and will certainly be more dangerous in a rematch.
Manny not only has an opponent that holds so many advantages over him right now, but he’s also up against Father Time and Uncle Bob. There is no doubt in my mind that Bob Arum would love nothing more for Pacquiao to take another loss to Horn simply because Pacquiao’s lofty demands have made him a supreme pain in the ass. Pacquiao turned down a fight with Terence Crawford earlier this year by demanding a $20 million payday knowing full well he wouldn’t get it and then delayed the Horn fight by going behind Arum’s back to make an aborted fight with Amir Khan in the United Arab Emirates.
If Pacquiao wins, the possibility of him retiring following victory is much higher than a Horn trilogy and much, much higher than getting the living daylights beaten out of him by Crawford. For the business side of things, it is imperative that Jeff Horn walks out of Australia again with a Welterweight title.
Win or lose, Manny Pacquiao’s career will be just as over now as it should have been a few months ago. If it ends with salvaged dignity or further calamity is yet to be seen.