Manny Pacquiao: Should the Pacman actively pursue Welterweight unification with Errol Spence Jr?
2019 is finally coming to a close, and most major boxing periodicals have made their respective "year-end" honors.
While most respected fight scribes selected Saul Canelo Alvarez to be most worthy of their respective "Fighter of the Year" honors, eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao seemed to be everyone's lock for 2019's "Comeback Fighter of the Year".
After dropping a controversial decision and losing his WBO Welterweight title to Jeff Horn in July of 2017, many ringside observers believed the Pacman's storied career was coming to an unfortunate end. And although Manny picked up a minor version of the WBA strap a year later in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, many critics still questioned whether or not Pacquiao would fight past 2018.
Before his lone fight of 2018, Pacquiao made several questionable changes to his team. Manny severed his relationship with long-time promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, Inc., as well as briefly separating from Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Despite coming away with a decisive knock-out victory over former Junior Welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse, many fans and critics alike wondered if Manny would continue fighting beyond age 40.
But after reuniting with his friend and mentor Freddie Roach, and signing a three-fight agreement with Al Haymon and PBC, the proud Filipino fight legend answered his harshest critics, scoring two resounding victories over Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman.
When asked what motivated him to compete at such a high level throughout 2019, the humble politician seemingly spoke from the heart.
"I appreciate the media for everything they do for me and the sport of boxing, and I'm not angry, but their doubtful words inspired me to train harder," stated Manny Pacquiao after his split decision victory over Keith Thurman in July of 2019. "I still feel like a young man and I still want to fight."
After becoming the only eight-division world champion the sport has ever seen, and proving all of his naysayers wrong in 2019, what could possibly motivate the Pacman to fight on through 2020?
According to Manny's strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, don't look for Pacquiao to retire any time soon.
"He's a tough guy to beat," stated the former Heavyweight fighter to "Little Giant Boxing". "At 41, he's still one the best fighters at 147 pounds. He's on a roll. He has a new lease on life. At the beginning of his career, he was so explosive. At the end of his career, he's just as brilliant. He has to go down as one of the greatest fighters in history."
Indeed, when all is said and done, the 41-year-old fight legend will be viewed as one of the greatest to ever lace up the gloves.
So where does the Pacman rank all time?
"You'd have to put him in the top five greatest in history," claims Fortune. "Eight divisions, 12 world titles....still stopping guys at the top of the division. This guy's an absolute freak of nature."
With a full-time career as a Senator of his beloved Philippines, why would Pacquiao choose to continue taking punishment for fan entertainment?
"He loves it...he literally loves it. He has an absolute passion for it and has never wavered at all...that's why he still does it."
Compared to his challenging and stressful position as a Senator, perhaps the business of boxing doesn't seem terribly convoluted. But realistically the only participant still undefeated in the sport of boxing is "Father Time". Retirement is inevitable for every great pugilist.
One...two, maybe three more years?
"That's for Manny to decide," stated the veteran S & C coach. "That's not a decision you can make for him. That's up to him. It's different for every fighter to stop, because it's in their blood. But yeah, that's Manny's decision...it's going to be tough."
Admittedly, it's hard for every fighter to work without a real challenge. Perhaps the greatest challenge available for Manny Pacquiao would be a unification bout with current WBC/IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. Although the 29-year-old fighter recently stated that he feels great and has been medically cleared to compete in the ring, Fortune seems to think it may be too soon for a unification bout with a fighter like the Pacman.
"There's a residual effect from an accident like that. I wish Spence the absolute best, and back in the ring as soon as possible...that's a tough one."
While Danny Garcia seemingly remains the favorite to get the first 2020 fight date with Manny Pacquiao, should the eight-division world titlist actively pursue a lucrative legacy fight with Spence Jr. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas?
"That's up to Haymon and Pacquiao Promotions," insists Justin Fortune. "Everyone wants to fight Manny, because Manny is a payday."
For a fight legend who has nothing left to prove in the sport of boxing, a unification contest with the most highly regarded Welterweight in the world could be the motivation the Pacman needs to succeed in 2020.
Fans should expect to hear an announcement very soon from Pacquiao Promotions and PBC.