By Vinny “Glory Days” Lucci
There’s an old adage in life, be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. Enter Manny Pacquiao on the Jeff Horn wish list. Bob Arum of Top Rank has officially signed this one for April 22. Funny thing about wanting in on the Pacquiao Parade where a boxer is literally guaranteed a bigger pay day then they’ll find anywhere else at this weight but more often than not they walk away with broken dreams. This past November young upstart Jessie Vargas who had more experience than Horn and a much better resume did not win a single round in the Manny Sweepstakes and just like most before him, walked away empty handed. Managers, promoters, and boxers alike are hoping to cash in on the boxer’s mileage of a 22 year career and duplicate the lightning in a bottle punch that the great Juan Manuel Marquez landed back in 2012. What they forget is that it took JMM four fights and 42 rounds to time the perfect punch.
No mere mortal since Manny climbed up from flyweight has been able to do it in 12, not even the eras beat Floyd Mayweather, JR. Just how difficult would it be to replicate the punch? Marquez walked away from a fifth match which would have guaranteed him 12 million dollars with an upside of 25. Since then Manny has exposed Chris Algieri also, beaten brawler Brandon Rios to a pulp, and turned back the challenge of Timothy Bradley twice.
So Arum always needs a dance partner for Manny who has already run through his gauntlet of welterweights contenders under contract to Top Rank. In recent years Oscar De La Hoya has been reluctant in co-promoting bouts with his old mentor leaving Bob to piece meal Manny’s final legacy and who he matches him with. While fans constantly hear Pac’s name matched along some terrific contemporaries the bouts have failed to materialize. Amir Kahn asked for parity, while Kell Brook has simply been inactive at 147. Errol Spence, JR. is foaming at the mouth to be next in line to fight anybody with a title but has been caught up in the political abyss that is the IBF rankings. Big talker Adrien Broner balked at a five million dollar payday which is almost double his net worth.
Enter Horn. Kid known as the Hornet is 28 and hails from Brisbane Queensland. Started his pro career in 2013 and has a waist full of nonsensical belts that I won’t dignify by mention here. While there is no doubt talent in both fists this scribe points out that there is nobody on his ledger that will prepare him for the challenge ahead. My memory bank needs to go back no further than Canelo Alvarez’s last bout against Liam Smith to be remembered of how an impressive record against fighters no one has heard of means very little once the bell rings.
Manny holds the WBO and lineal Welterweight title. His record is 59-6-2, 38 KO’s. He is a future hall of famer who has fought and beaten a galaxy of stars many who are hall of fame bound also including Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Timothy Bradley. The 5’5 and a half inch Filipino southpaw has dazzling hand speed with beguiling footwork that allows him to enter the pocket unloading combinations and exiting the gate on either side with relative ease as he ducks under his adversaries offense and then steps back and sideways instantly out of range of counter attacks. While he hasn’t scored a knockout since 2009 his punches sting like a bitch and keeps foes honest about trying to trade when he is on offense. The eight division champion from Flyweight to Junior Middleweight possesses a 67” reach that he makes up for with blinding speed, prefect timing and deft angles. The JMM knockout is an asterisk on his ledger. Manny’s chin is top notch.
Jeff Horn will enjoy a slight height advantage at 5’9” but just like Jessie Vargas and Chris Algieri before him who stood 5’10” but the height didn’t help either opponent. With a 68” wingspan he won’t be favored to pot shot from outside the pocket and must engage in Manny’s real estate to even land a punch. His orthodox stance will find it difficult to plant his lead left foot inside Pac’s right because of the champion’s perpetual motion and experience. His record seems incomplete on the verge closer to novice than contender. At 16-0-1 11 KO’s there is only one highly respectable name on his record, Randall Bailey who was TKO’d in 7 but was 41 years old at the time.
The question is why this match up and why now? While the boxing community was teased in recent months over possible matchups concerning Manny Vs Floyd Mayweather, JR. in a rematch in which Arum himself stirred the controversy saying he believed it would happen, we were also lured into believing that 140 sensation Terrence Crawford was ready to move north seven pounds in quest of top gun status.
Without either bout going to contract Arum was forced to keep a date not only open, but filled. Floyd told the boxing media recently he will not fight again in the ring against a boxer preferring to secure a match against an MMA fighter instead. (Mixed Martial Arts) Pacquiao needs to keep sharp while Arum needs to placate the boxing calendar. Long time sponsor HBO who has carried Pac’s fights on a regular basis since 2008 shied away from covering his last pay per view event against Vargas. As of this writing it appears HBO will again take a pass as they have already committed March and May to its pay per view arm showcasing Miguel Cotto Vs James Kirkland and Gennady Golovkin Vs Daniel Jacobs respectively. Arum is in serious negotiations to host the bout in either Australia or Dhabi in Middle East. As the promoter I would protect my interests and opt out of showcasing the bout on challenger’s turf where he could influence the judge’s scoring. I still scratch my head in disbelief at the first verdict of Tim Bradley over Manny back in 2012. Most people ringside or fans at home thought Tim would have been lucky to win three rounds.
What to look for:
Horn can probably match Manny for hand speed but not necessarily punch output. Horn is a developing fighter with several flaws that he has been able to get away with against weak opposition. Let’s take a magnifying glass and exposes the weaknesses for the viewership to spot as the fight unfolds. Jeff has a bad tendency to square up in the pocket especially if he corners a foe against the ropes. That equates to bad balance should he be tagged in return without one foot behind him. During those exchanges he leaves his chin exposed to perhaps the best counter puncher in the game. While he does display a good sense of timing and fires with leverage from interesting angles he is still untested against a ranked welter in which to gage if he is indeed a contender or just a kid from down under who has been blowing away other kids from the proverbial neighborhood.
On the flipside does Manny still have the legs and stamina to wear down a kid coming into his prime? Some writers have knocked Pac’s inability to score a knockout in years or say he fears to linger in pocket too long in fear of a Marquez like reprisal. If it becomes less of a boxing match and both choose to go to war will Horn get lucky with his power shots?
As with most fights it comes down to styles but this one will be predicated on experience. Jeff simply does not have the boxing tenure behind him to establish an upset. Manny will gage the proper distance in the very first round and master his timing thereafter. The challenger is quite sturdy on his feet with well-built legs which are instinctively trained to pivot and adopt angle change in ring center but no matter how well he executes Manny can perform every facet of the game better, and has against world class competition since Jeff was 10 years old.
As the rounds progress “The Hornet” will become frustrated by inability to land the telling shots he has in the past on lesser foes. If he starts leading with left hooks that aren’t started behind jabs will be a tell-tale sign he is getting tired and in need of a plan B. I think Jeff will do better than Jessie Vargas did who didn’t let his hands go enough and kept his best weapon his straight right hand in moth balls. The bout will be entertaining from a fans stand point and be somewhat competitive. While it won’t exactly be Roberto Duran Vs Iran Barkley, it will provide a sense of competitiveness. Jeff will be in the fight, but Manny will always be better. Horn has never seen round 11 before and it would be a good opportunity to the champion to put an exclamation mark on bout by carrying last two rounds big and separating himself from challenger on score cards.
Look for a Pacquiao win 8 rounds to 4.
Stay tuned…Contact the Feature Writers