Mike Tyson, then the dominant heavyweight champion of the world, was set to take on little-known Buster Douglas on February 10 in Tokyo.
Sparring partner Greg Page accompanied the champ to Japan and promoter Don King would subsequently showcase Tyson in an open workout which included a sparring session with Page. In that session, we saw a slower, seemingly disinterested Tyson who ate some leather from Page and was clearly being outboxed.
And then... BANG!
Tyson ran into a loaded right hand, was momentarily staggered and then fell to the canvas. Tyson rose quickly but the session was halted at that moment.
Suddenly, Mike's workouts were closed to the public.
The knockdown garnered mainstream headlines and people started to wonder if that seemingly laxed version of Tyson could beat a top guy like Evander Holyfield or Razor Ruddock. Of course, no one gave Douglas a chance - even against an unfocused Tyson.
... But it happened. Tyson would be beaten-up and knocked out by Douglas weeks later. The former, of course, blamed his partying ways and insisted he was ill-prepared to face Douglas.
Enter Manny Pacquiao.
Five and one half weeks shy of his title defense against heavy underdog Jeff Horn, are we, now, getting a glimpse into what might happen in that bout?
Trainer Freddie Roach, usually PacMan's biggest cheerleader, has concerns.
“We are far behind. Those five rounds of sparring were the worst I have seen him spar,” said Roach to the Manila Times.
“Overall, the second day of sparring was not great I didn’t expect him to be good. But I think he’s getting there."
“Manny has not done any knockout for a long time. He got to show here in the sparring that he wants to knock him down. So, I don’t know, I cannot predict that anymore."
Can Manny manage his senatorial duties and fight on the elite level?
Pacquiao vs Horn News
Date: July 2, 2017
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Champion: Manny Pacquiao
"I don't know if Manny Pacquiao can continue to manage his career in the Senate with his career in boxing," the Top Rank CEO admitted to FightHype.com last September. "For me, it maybe seems like it's too much. But I don't know...Manny has a lot of energy, and we're going to see."
He looked great against Jessie Vargas last fall, but perhaps juggling his senatorial duties with boxing is starting to take its toll? Keep in mind, his current position is more demanding than was his previous role as a congressman.
While Tyson was consumed with partying prior to the Douglas fight, PacMan's political obligations might serve as his Achilles heel. So yes, on one hand, there's reason to worry.
Counterpoint to Roach's concerns
Or maybe, just maybe, Manny gets bored in sparring and underperforms as a result?
Let's face it, Pacquiao sparring rumors are usually unfavorable to the Filipino star. Maybe this is just the norm?
In January 2015, Amir Khan, while lobbying for fights with Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, told FightHype, "I remember the wars I used to have [with Manny Pacquiao] in the Wild Card gym...I thought it was good to do that, With me and Pacquiao, it was war," asserted Khan.
"Most of the time, I used to get the better of him. I've got videos of that (to prove it)...He knows deep down what happened in sparring."
Blah, blah, blah...
And, of course, it was reported that Pacquiao, prior to his big fight with Floyd Mayweather in 2015, was sparring an MMA fighter whose professional boxing record was a meager 15-19-3.
“They needed someone for Manny to tee off on in the gym…to keep his spirits high and his confidence up,” stated experienced boxing coach James Gogue to 'War a Week Radio.'
“If Pacquiao is having a hard time with certain sparring partners, which is what is being reported in the media currently, it deflates a fighter."
"They start doubting themselves, which isn’t good heading into a big fight.”
Despite all the innuendo, Manny dazzled against Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas last year, and showed glimpses of greatness, despite being injured, in his loss to Floyd Mayweather.
Sparring is usually intended to serve as a learning process for those participating. For example, if a short fighter needs to practice his defense in preparation for a much taller opponent, he'll spar with a tall fighter with the sole intention of evading punches, not scoring points. Of course, to onlookers who may not know any better, the shorter fighter may appear tentative and less willing to engage.
A reason for concern?
So, should Pacquiao fans be a little worried?
Answer: Yes, a bit. But the fight isn't until July 2.
Sparring rumors from spectators and other fighters don't carry nearly as much weight as direct comments from a fighter's trainer, especially if he is a longtime mentor.
In the ring, Freddie knows Manny better than anyone else so his comments should rattle fans a bit, and put his fighter on notice.
One diference between Tyson and Pacquiao: Mike was looking bad in sparring 2 1/2 to 3 weeks prior to the Douglas fight. Manny's fight with Horn is still nearly 6 weeks out.