MANILA, Philippines - It’s hard for Manny Pacquiao to formulate an opinion on Jeff Horn, the unbeaten Australian who has been named as his likely next opponent. That’s because he had never heard of the fighter before he was presented as a potential challenger for his WBO welterweight title.
“This is my first time to hear his name,” said Pacquiao on Monday, January 23, during an interview at his temporary office in the Philippine Senate.
That’s because Horn (16-0-1, 11 knockouts) isn’t yet a big name outside of his home country, despite making the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics. Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank got his first look at him in December, when he knocked out veteran Ali Funeka in 6 rounds on the undercard of the WBO heavyweight title fight between Joe Parker and Andy Ruiz Jr in New Zealand.
Pacquiao, 38, says the fight has not yet been finalized, revealing that promoters are still working out the venue for the fight, which is expected to take place April 23.
“We’re waiting for the finalization within two weeks from now,” said Pacquiao, who last defeated Jessie Vargas in November.
“Once we get a venue, we’ll confirm an opponent. So there’s nothing definite on either a venue or an opponent,” added Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz, who said the next fight could land in Australia or in the United Arab Emirates cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
"Why do you need an opponent if you don’t have a venue? The venue’s the priority right now," Koncz said.
Even though Horn would be Pacquiao’s first opponent in 10 years who wasn’t a current or former world champion, Koncz says there is still need for caution in approaching any fighter.
“Every opponent is a dangerous opponent at this time in Manny’s career because you don’t know when he’s gonna get old. If you put it on paper and compare it to Manny’s schedule, it doesn’t match. But again, you can’t just go by what’s on the paper,” said Koncz, who likewise had not previously heard of Horn, the WBO's number-two-ranked welterweight.
Pacquiao also shot down Arum’s plan to have him fight 4 times in 2017, with a fight to follow in July, in September, and another at the end of the year as a farewell bout against Terence Crawford, the unbeaten unified junior welterweight champion.
“I’m not a robot. I’m human. To fight twice a year is hard for me, how much if I fight 4 times a year? It’s gonna be impossible,” said Pacquiao, an 8-division champion who has been professional for 21 years.
Koncz added that that schedule wouldn’t work with Pacquiao’s schedule in the Senate, saying his second fight of the year would take place in October or November, depending on when he has a break.
“That’s absolutely not true, maximum we’ll fight is two times,” said Koncz. “That’s just Arum doing wishful thinking on a possible tour.”
Koncz says that the plan is to fight twice in 2017, then have another fight or two in 2018 before deciding whether or not to continue his career. Pacquiao isn’t expected to be in the boxing gym until 6 or 7 weeks before the fight, and his camp says they aren’t yet concerned about who their opponent will be for the end of the year bout.
“At this stage in Manny’s career, we don’t have a whole big list to pick from. [Floyd Mayweather Jr] is happily retired so we wish him the best of luck. We’ll just worry about this fight and then worry about the next one when November comes,” said Koncz.
When asked about the WBC/WBA welterweight unification bout between undefeated titleholders Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman set for March 3 in Brooklyn, New York, Pacquiao picked Garcia to win. He says he’d take a fight against the winner if offered.
“I’m ready to fight anybody,” said Pacquiao. – Rappler.com