Making quiet headlines this week was the fact that Manny Pacquiao has begun to gear things up in training, following his usual routine when a fight is imminent.
Longtime trainers and associates, Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri, who usually head the Filipino icon’s training in the early stages of preparation, have been called out to General Santos City in the Philippines to start working with Manny. If the usual pattern plays out true to form, trainer Freddie Roach and Justin Fortune will come out for the next stages of prep work.
But greater than the quiet headlines this movement has generated is the sudden absolute silence when it comes to the “when and who” answers regarding Pacquiao’s comeback.
A couple weeks ago, the boxing media had a feeding frenzy over a slight tidbit of a story leaked by an anonymous source about ongoing talks with WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford. Not much detail was given, but a June 5 date was tossed out to the masses, as well as the likelihood that, if it did happen, it would have to be in Abu Dhabi.
Then, after Pacquiao advisor and MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons called the “almost done deal” talk “nonsense,” the story simply disappeared and there’s been nothing but silence since.
Before the Crawford rumor, Mikey Garcia seemed to be the leading candidate for the Pacquiao comeback fight, almost by default after Errol Spence seemed to commit to a bout against new WBA welterweight titlist Yordenis Ugas and the other welterweight top dogs began to focus on other fight opportunities.
The 42-year-old Pacquiao hasn’t fought since July of 2019, when he handed Keith Thurman his first professional loss via split decision. The Covid-19 pandemic and his responsibilities as Senator dealing with that pandemic kept the multi-division world champ out of the ring for all of 2020 and early 2021. But the urge to fight and cap off his legendary career has seemingly returned and, with those urges, comes the need to find the right B-side for his return.
Crawford represents the stiffest available test for Pacquiao and it’s probably smart to get in shape, assuming his bout will be against that stiffest test. At least that’s how his trainers seem to be viewing things.
“He’s still fast and strong and he will become even stronger and faster as training progresses,” Neri told Rappler.com. “It’s a good match-up [against Crawford], and we have to prepare for this. The Senator must be in optimum form against Crawford.”
So, as things appear now, Crawford and Mikey Garcia are the most likely comeback foes for Manny– but that’s mostly because absolutely no info about an opponent is coming from Team Pacquiao. There are many reasons to believe, also, that Crawford and Garcia are NOT the ones. There was Pacquiao’s insistence not too long ago on a $40 million purse to fight Crawford. There’s also Pacquiao’s apparent absolute ambivalence regarding Garcia, who’s been lusting after a big-money Pacquiao bout for years already.
The lack of real leads, though, is probably the big story in all of this comeback fight talk. For Manny, there’s usually a pretty solid idea of who he will be fighting and a reliable short list of candidates. Right now, there’s nothing but rumor, media-planted buzz, and some wishful thinking from a couple of possible opponents.
For fans, there’s nothing to do but wait at this point. If a Summer return is the target, then Team Pacquiao has to make their opponent selection soon. One gets the feeling that maybe they don’t even know who that opponent is just yet. Don’t be surprised, however, if someone totally unexpected gets that B-side nod.