At 37, Manny Pacquiao has nothing left to prove as a professional boxer. He is without question an all-time great. His climb up in weight has been one of the most remarkable in the history of the sport. His promotional team refers to him as an “eight-division world champion” and lazy boxing writers repeat this as if they were stenographers. He is no such thing.
But his legitimate record is still dazzling. Pacquiao was a true World Champion at 112, 126, 130 and 140 pounds. He was an elite, pound-for-pound contender while campaigning at welterweight. His life journey from desperate poverty to the Filipino senate is one of the great success stories of the 20th century.
But while Pacquiao has nothing left to prove, there is still money that he can make. And so he will take a break from his political responsibilities to return to the ring in April. His opponent is expected to be named this week.
Pacquiao last appeared in the ring this past July, losing a controversial decision to Australia’s Jeff Horn. On paper, a rematch would make sense. But I’m not really surprised that it probably won’t take place. Even if you think Pacquiao should have won that fight, there is no denying that he looked like a shell of his once great self. Horn’s youth and size gave him advantages he would not have been able to realize against the Manny Pacquiao of five years ago.
The likely candidate will instead be hard-traveled veteran Mike Alvarado. Alvarado is a tough-as-nails fighter and was a legitimate contender at 140 pounds, five years ago. His first two fights with Brandon Rios were exciting, all-action wars. He got stopped in Round 7 of the first fight but came back to win the rematch by comfortable margins.
But that March 2013 victory over Rios remains his professional high-water mark. He was battered by Ruslan Provodnikov in October 2013 and served as little more than a punching bag against the older, far-smaller Juan Manuel Marquez in May 2014. When he faced Rios in a January 2015 rubbermatch, he looked ill-prepared. Rios battered him, stopping him in Round 3. He has won four fights since, against obscure opponents.
There will be squawking if this fight gets made, and I probably won’t bother to watch it. Still, I won’t complain about it. At this point, both Pacquiao and Alvarado are fighting for money. And despite their widely different legacies, each man has left enough of himself in the ring to deserve whatever money he can still get.