Questions abound these days when it comes to Manny Pacquiao. Will he ever fight Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? At age 35 how far have his skills eroded? Why are his bouts no longer grossing big live gate and pay-per-view numbers?
Lots of questions to be sure, but very few answers. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has intoned that he was not totally impressed with the performance of his charge in a winning effort against Timothy Bradley on April 12. Then there is the issue of gross ticket sales - or lack thereof as the Bradley rematch was Pacquiao’s lowest live gate figure in a number of years. Then there are the purported abysmal PPV numbers which nobody wants to talk about.
Where all this leaves Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum is anyone’s guess. The best laid plan seemed to be that Pacquiao would meet the winner of the May 17 fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado, but that seems to have gone awry. A recent report from a Mexican publication indicated that Marquez wants nothing to do with a fifth fight against Pacquiao. Can’t say as I blame him there.
The conundrum for Arum seems to be how to sell Pacquiao again now that the pride of the Philippines has cobbled together two wins after two losses. Or looked at another way, how does Arum get people to buy Pacquiao again? The welterweight division in which Pacquiao plies his trade is chock full of talent, but most of it is aligned with Showtime, Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions which of course are all sworn enemies of the curmudgeonly 82-year-old Arum - and that's a problem.
The issue more than anything seems to be that the public is tired of seeing Pacquiao fight the same people over and over again. Aside from Brandon Rios whom he faced in November, Pacquiao has not fought anyone not named Timothy Bradley or Juan Manuel Marquez in three years. Yes, three years. While Bob Arum has forgotten more about promoting than most will ever know, the general consensus is that Pacquiao must be rebuilt into a ticket selling phenomenon and somehow put back upon his lofty throne.
The big question is how to do that with a Pacquiao that has lost a few steps and is much more vulnerable than he was when he blazed a nine-year long trail through boxing from 2003-2012. It was an incredible run that is practically unparallelled in boxing history as Pacquiao beat everyone from Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera to Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto as well as a bunch of guys in between. But Pacquiao has fallen from where he was and now can all Arum’s horses and all Arum’s men put Pacquiao back together again?
Arum has done this sort of rebuild before with Roberto Duran who was in a much more compromised state before Arum rescued him late in 1982. Arum took Duran from zero to hero and we all know how "Hands of Stone" came back to beat Davey Moore, nearly upset Marvin Hagler and then later win the middleweight title from Iran Barkley. The key then, as it is now, is in the matchmaking as it pertains to getting Pacquiao back on top. That and some luck.
To put Pacquiao in with sharp counterpunchers or a young, slick boxer is a mistake. To put him in with a bigger and stronger fighter is a mistake. First and foremost Pacquiao needs to face guys that are his size and that are closer to him in age and guys he won't have to chase. Best case scenario are names such as Paulie Malignaggi, Robert Guerrero, Zab Judah, Josesito Lopez or Andre Berto. Guys such as those have flaws and or are similar in age and size. Bottom line is that in order to get Pacquiao back on track he needs those types of opponents and not in Las Vegas. Pacquiao would sell big on the road. The days of Pacquiao fighting hungry youngsters such as a Shawn Porter or a Keith Thurman are in the rear view mirror. The days of any of Arum's fighters appearing at the MGM Grand or Mandalay Bay are also in the rear view mirror.
Putting Manny in with Canelo Alvarez as Oscar De La Hoya has supposedly suggested would be suicide. Lopez weighs north of 170-pounds on fight night and he is 23-years-old and improving with every fight. If Arum and De La Hoya make that fight they should be arrested for attempted murder.
Arum, Roach and Pacquiao himself have to decide what the goal is and what the end game is. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has his exit strategy mapped out and he even has a date when he will contest his last bout should he continue to win. Mayweather is nothing if not creative when it comes to opponent selection. Pacquiao needs the same type of creativity coupled with a long-term plan that has an end-game in mind. His career seems to meandering along aimlessly headed toward nowhere and that’s a shame for a fighter that has given so much of himself for so long to all of his fans.