Where next for Pacquiao?

James McHugh
04/07/2017 12:39pm

After his stunning defeat to Jeff Horn in Brisbane, James McHugh ponders the options for the legendary Manny Pacquiao...

Throughout the history of boxing you will find many amazing examples of fighters who have turned their lives around and gone from rags to riches.

Boxing can change people’s lives, propelling talented fighters from a deprived background to a lifestyle we normally only see via MTV Cribs.

However this is also a sport that doesn’t thrive on sentiment and, more often than not, doesn’t provide the perfect ending.

Some are wise, decide enough is enough and retire.

But history teaches us that even the greatest can be goaded out of comfortable retirements for one last hurrah, which often results in failure. One round too many can change the reputation - or health - of a fighter forever, with dimmed reflexes and slowed speed combining to harrowing effect.

Unfortunately this crossroads now awaits Manny Pacquiao.

Continue boxing and he risks tarnishing his legacy. While if he retires he will be forced to accept the fact that he's simply not the force that he was once was.

At 38-years-old, Pacquiao, a record eight-division world titlist, didn't foresee losing when he agreed to defend his WBO title against relatively unknown Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane.

Pacquiao entered the fight off the back of five wins from his last six bouts, with the lone defeat being at the hands of Floyd Mayweather in May 2015.

If we are being completely honest, outside of Australia, very few people had heard of Horn and most assumed that this would be a routine defence, prior to Pacquiao moving on to bigger and better things.

Sometimes boxing just doesn’t work like that though.

Pacquiao suffered a stunning defeat on points. Despite showing signs of age and diminished skills, the loss still came as a shock, with the judges' unanimous verdict in Horn's favour being bitterly disputed by many observers.

The Hornet's 117-111, 115-113, 115-113 victory secured the WBO welterweight title, as well as preserving Horn's undefeated status, as the 29-year-old Aussie improved his record 17-0-1 in front of his fans.

It was a bloody battle; Pacquiao was cut open by a pair of head clashes, while Horn was not only cut but displayed a badly swollen face post-fight. The referee, prior to the 10th round, even informed Horn that the fight would be stopped if he didn't turn things around, with the Aussie hanging in there long enough to score a massive upset.

Although Horn performed well and beyond the expectations of most pundits, the majority opinion seems to be that Pac-Man deserved the nod. Post-fight Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach even called for judge Waleska Roldan to be investigated for a controversial 117-111 scorecard.

“That was hard," Roach said. "Sometimes I think people need to be investigated. At least in America where you get odd scores like that with the judges, the head commissioner should ask at some point, ‘Why? Where? Show me how you came up with that score.’”

Both Pacquiao and Horn entered the fight with plenty on the line in terms of potentially being able to land bigger fights in the future.

There were suggestions that Roach would encourage the Filipino superstar to retire in the event of a loss and questions are certainly now afoot as to what's next for Pacquiao's career. In truth, it's difficult to know where he goes from this point.

A win against Horn wouldn’t have boosted Pacquaio's legacy, but it would have potentially extended his career. Now, though, debatable decision or not, the ageing legend has lost twice in his last four fights and will look all the more vulnerable to prospective opponents, who may be all the keener to meet him following this shock defeat.

So what are Pacquiao’s best options? One of the more obvious avenues back would be to face Horn again, granting Manny a shot at redemption. Alternatively he could try and revive interest in a fight with former light-welterweight champion Amir Khan. As for the likes of Errol Spence and Keith Thurman, clashes with such formidable rivals in the welterweight division look unlikely.

We may see Pacquiao return to box in his native Philippines, which promoter Bob Arum has suggested could be a potentially lucrative option for the fighter.

So, have we seen the last of Manny Pacquiao in a boxing ring?

Probably only Manny himself knows what may come next. But history suggests the Filipino legend will find it hard to quit.