Often billed as a global icon, it’s only fitting that full-time Filipino senator (and part-time welterweight titleholder) Manny Pacquiao will take his show on the road Saturday against unbeaten Jeff Horn in Australia.
Pacquiao, 38, will fight off of pay-per-view for the first time since 2005 when he defends his WBO title in the backyard of his opponent, Jeff Horn, at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).
The idea of fighting outside of the United States in pursuit of a larger purse isn’t necessarily foreign to Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs), who traveled to Macau for victories over Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri in recent years. But the choice of Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) as an opponent this time around feels like a legitimate step down in class, especially considering how loaded the 147-pound division remains.
Horn, 29, has never fought outside of Australia or New Zealand and lacks even a single signature victory that might have garnered him any attention in the United States. But the opportunity is open for Horn to make an incredibly large statement, especially considering how large the viewing audience is expected to be with Pacquiao returning to basic cable.
Here’s how the fight card shakes out in Australia
Manny Pacquiao (c) -600
Jeff Horn +400
Michael Conlan -10000
Jarrett Owen +1600
Jerwin Ancajas -2000
Teiru Kinoshita +900
Shane Mosley Jr. -147
David Toussaint +110
Let’s take a look at how these two fighters match up.
Fight breakdown, prediction
Despite pushing 40, Pacquiao has remarkably retained a level of speed and slickness that has kept him on most pound-for-pound top 10 lists. Outside of his decision loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2015 and his legendary rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez, he has largely dominated every opponent he has faced for a full decade.
Pacquiao is no longer the cyclone of six-punch combinations and relentless pressure that was so present during his welterweight prime. But he’s a much smarter pure boxer in his late 30s who controls space very well and is much more cognizant of avoiding counter shots.
If the unheralded Horn was already facing an uphill battle in terms of the talent disparity at play on Saturday, Pacquiao’s turn toward responsible boxing late in his career only removes any remaining avenues to victory that Horn may have had.
Pacquiao’s speed, on its own, will likely be enough to help him control Horn from the outside, especially combined with his sublime ability to land punches from incredibly awkward angles. And even if Horn was able to lure Pacquiao into a brawl, it’s likely he would be outgunned anyway.
Horn has decent pop and a very aggressive style. Similar to Ricky Hatton, he attempts to crowd and overwhelm opponents with volume, often using a lead right hand to catch them off guard. But his pension for aggression should come with a cost against Pacquiao considering how often Horn squares up when setting his feet before punching.
Along with advantages in pure talent, Pacquiao dwarfs him in terms of experience. Style wise, Horn just might be the perfect foil for Pacquiao to end his seven-year knockout drought. At least in theory.
In the end, you can expect Horn to visit the canvas multiple times. Yet Pacquiao’s tendency to carry brave opponents to the final bell just might help Horn save face in his home country.
Pick: Pacquiao by unanimous decision.