Boxing always leaves clues.
Little insights foreshadowing the near future.
Oscar de la Hoya didn’t get ‘old overnight’ against Manny Pacquiao. Steve Forbes uncovered some hints of the Golden Boy’s deterioration six months previous.
Ali and Bernard Hopkins didn’t show up versus Larry Holmes and Joe Smith Jr, hear the bell ring for Round One, and suddenly realise their skills had abandoned them without even saying goodbye.
They had both taken two years out in the latter years of their career. Inactivity eroded abilities and sparring would have communicated this.
So those that wish to back Jeff Horn, this Saturday when he challenges the future Hall-of-Famer, Manny Pacquiao in Australia, search for clues of Manny’s regression. And when they cannot find, they presume.
Manny Pacquiao’s last fight – seven months ago – was versus Jessie Vargas: a serviceable contender at both 140 and 147lbs. Pacman dominated the American. Seven months prior to that, Manny was boxing rings round future Hall-of-Famer, Timothy Bradley.
If there are signs, they are subtle. So subtle that they are invisible to the uninitiated.
And subtle deterioration is not what Jeff Horn requires.
Most seasoned critics see a cynical match-up between an aging great and a hometown boy who poses little threat.
Horn is fighting conventional thought as well as a far superior peer.
Such is the gulf in class when comparing Jeff Horn with Manny’s previous level of opposition, you would have to traipse back to 2004 and find the luminary, Fashan 3k Battery, to find the last time Manny fought an opponent of Horn’s low standing or worse.
His fast twitch fibres may not be so fast anymore. But they’re still MUCH faster than any that Horn has laid eyes on before.
Tim Bradley once said: ‘You can’t prepare for Manny Pacquiao’.
It is terribly difficult.
Once described as a ‘Pacific typhoon’ by the great Martin Tyler. Manny’s combination of dynamism, power, speed of foot and hand, unorthodox style and odd angles calls for opponents to wing it. All the while using their boxing IQ and natural sense of timing as they adapt, or risk drowning in the rising tide.
Both ring IQ and timing are attributes harnessed over time, through high level battles at both amateur and professional level. Jeff Horn’s lack of experience, therefore, counts against him.
Horn’s aggressive style, his greatest asset, may prove his greatest defect this Saturday.
Many observer’s when criticising Manny’s lack of knockouts above 140lbs forget that only Antonio Margarito, Ricky Hatton and Brandon Rios ventured forward against the PacMan and two of those are world-renowned for their toughness.
So when there is lack of physical deterioration, those seeking justification for backing a hopeless underdog look to emotional deficit. Cue #phonegate.
Manny’s loyalty to his phone over protocol is not a sign of his lack of focus, arrogance or even disrespect. He has never needed to whip himself into a frenzy of focus. He approaches the sport with the same joyful glee that he always has. His respect for the sport is manifested in his dedication in the gym.
When the bright lights turn on and his music plays, the smile that consumes his features is not one of irreverence, but one of playful enjoyment of the life that he has been afforded.
It’s the same Manny of 2007, just ten years older.
Expect the Manny Pacquiao retirement tour to leave the station with a booming start on Saturday night.
Manny Pacquiao 10u to win @ 1.22 (-450) & to win via KNOCKOUT 3.5u @ 7/5 (+140)
Also on Friday night, the up and coming American lightweight Robert Easter defends his world title against Russian contender Denis Shafikov.
We have Easter as a 58% favorite which is in stark contrast to the bookmakers where he has implied odds of 17%.
In many ways this is a step up for Easter. Shafikov is a seasoned veteran and one familiar with world level – unlike most of Easter’s other opponents.
Easter is a gigantic Lightweight (5’11) and does a good imitation of an octopus attempting to put on a string vest.
Ultimately his size, length and resilience should tell. But Shafikov’s price is too good to pass up.
Denis Shafikov 5u to win @ 5/1 (+500)
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