When Manny Pacquiao announced that he will fight one last time before retiring it caused a stir. Numerous fighters put themselves forward as potential opponents. Today, only three names remain; Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley and Terence Crawford.
Two of the names in contention, Timothy Bradley and Terence Crawford, are like Pacquiao, fighting under the Top Rank banner. Whilst Khan works under his own promotions company (Khan Promotions) with support from his “advisor” Al Haymon.
Selecting an opponent has taken some time but a decision has finally been made. Bob Arum told Dan Rafael of ESPN that he will announce Manny Pacquiao’s (57-6-2) opponent this Friday during the Nonito Donaire vs Cesar Juarez card.
Interestingly, the card will play host to both Tim Bradley as a broadcaster and Terence Crawford, who will be attending the event in Puerto Rico as a spectator.
Given that both Bradley and Crawford will be in attendance at the event it seems unlikely that Arum would announce another fighter as Pacquiao’s opponent.
So, Bradley or Crawford? Pundits are leaning toward a rubber match with Bradley and it’s clearly not a fight they want to see.
A quick scan through Twitter will give you an idea just how much the pundits dislike the idea of Pacquiao vs. Bradley III.
For example, Dan Rafael said:
If it happens, Pacquiao-Bradley most pointless, least interesting, who cares trilogy since Winky Wright-Bronco McKart????????????????
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) December 7, 2015
Steve Kim wasn’t keen either, stating:
Will Pacquiao choose Bradley? I guess so(that's the word, nothing finalized) but I'd rather see something new. Been there, done that #boxing
— Steve Kim (@steveucnlive) December 4, 2015
Kim also quipped:
— Steve Kim (@steveucnlive) December 4, 2015
The fans weren’t leaning toward Bradley either with most Twitter polls voting in overwhelmingly in favour of Khan:
— BoxNation (@boxnationtv) December 4, 2015
Whilst Bradley’s a great fighter, a third fight with Pacquiao is not something I care to see. The first two fights weren’t great and regardless of what the official results may say Pacquiao won them both. A third fight is pointless and of little interest to anyone.
A Crawford fight is somewhat similar. Crawford is a fantastic young talent and everyone in the world of boxing is keen to see him progress. Going forward the sky is certainly the limit for the Omaha native. However, a fight with Manny Pacquiao is perhaps too much, too soon for Terence Crawford.
Sadly, sports fans the world over have a bad habit of insisting young prospects rush into situations they aren’t ready for. Very often it is too much for the athlete and as a result, they never realise their full potential.
My mother used to say “patience is a virtue” and in situations like this, with fighters like Crawford, patience is required for the sake of the sport.
Yes, Crawford may be a popular choice among some die-hard fans and pundits but if we were to remove Crawford’s hometown fans and the diehards from the equation literally nobody knows who he is, casual fans included. This fact alone is reason enough to rule out Crawford in my eyes. This isn’t Rocky. It’s the business of boxing.
As a result, I have come to believe that Amir Khan is the only real choice for Manny Pacquiao.
Many of you may disagree with me, so let me try and twist your arm somewhat.
Pacquiao and Khan have a history. They are friends. They shared a trainer (Freddie Roach) for years and they were also sparring partners on occasion.
Rewind to 1980 and you may recall another fight between two sparring partners – Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. Yes, Ali was a shadow of his former self in that fight and Holmes dominated from start to finish but there was a great backstory. The fight also inspired a young Mike Tyson, who vowed to avenge Ali’s loss to Holmes – and he did.
Sticking with the Ali theme for a moment, let’s also consider the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and the ‘Thrilla in Manila’.
The ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ took place in Zaire, Africa. Not somewhere that is known for hosting world-class boxing events.
During the negotiations for Pacquiao vs. Khan, Qatar (also not somewhere known for hosting boxing events), was seriously discussed as a venue. Surely, a ‘Duel in the Desert’ between such prominent names can only be good for boxing.
Going back to Ali. When he met Frazier for a third and final time we got the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. A fight which took place in the Philippines when the country was experiencing turbulent times.
Similarly, a fight in Qatar could show a different side to an often troubled and misrepresented middle east.
Perhaps for Pacquiao, the most interesting aspect of holding the bout in Qatar would be the financial benefits. A fight with Khan will generate more money than a fight with Bradley or Crawford. However, a fight with Khan in Qatar, a tax-free country, would mean that Pacquiao wouldn’t have to fill the pockets of the taxman in the US with 30% of his earnings.
Trudging back to Las Vegas for a fight nobody wants to see is not how Pacquiao, an eight-division champion, should leave the sport. Pacquaio should leave in style with a memorable fight that genuinely gets the juices flowing.
So, now let us consider what Amir Khan brings to the table. Khan won a Silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, aged just 17. This victory made Khan an instant celebrity in the UK. Whilst Khan never found the sort of support held by the likes of Ricky Hatton, he is one of the countries most celebrated active boxers.
Khan is also British Muslim of Pakistani heritage. In the UK alone there are there are 2.7 Muslims from which Khan draws massive support. When we then factor in other groups living in the UK, from the Indian subcontinent, the figure rises to in excess of four million people who serve as a base for Khan’s support.
Let’s not forget that’s just the UK. Khan also draws massive support from the middle east, Pakistan, and India.
This massive base of support is reflected in social media where Khan finds more support than any other active boxer bar Pacquiao and Mayweather. In fact, Khan’s social media support obliterates that of his nearest rivals.
Khan has 2.6 million followers on Twitter and in comparison, Bradley has the only 84.3k. Even Wladimir Klitschko, who is known around the world only has 250k followers.
To be brutally honest, I’m unsure why Khan wasn’t picked a long time ago. Could Pacquiao be avoiding Khan? Such a question may be laughed off by many but it’s certainly a possibility. Khan’s has a 100% record against Southpaws and his blistering speed could be very worrying even for Pacquiao, especially after his shoulder surgery.
Chris Algieri, who has fought both Pacquiao and Khan, alluded to this recently when he told ontheropesboxing “Pacquiao’s coming off of that shoulder surgery and Amir Khan’s a tough fight for anybody and to come back off of an injury and have that as your first opponent, I think that wouldn’t be a smart move for Pacquiao”.
Given all we have looked at, what other reason would Pacquiao have not to choose Khan? The fans don’t want Bradley and the masses don’t know who Crawford is. Khan is the lucrative fight. So, unless someone else is pulling the strings behind the scenes there should only be one real choice for Manny Pacquiao and that is Amir Khan.