At this late stage of his career, Manny Pacquiao isn't afraid to try something new. The WBO world welterweight champion has fought 67 times in his professional career, in the United States, Japan, Thailand, Macau and his native Philippines, but this weekend, he's fighting in a new place.
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 knockouts) will turn the boxing world's attention toward the unlikely location of Australia on Saturday (Sunday local time) when he defends his title against Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
In the United States, the fight will be live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes starting at 9 p.m. ET. Live streaming is available through WatchESPN. Per ESPN.com, Australian coverage is through the pay-per-view platform Foxtel.
Here's the televised undercard for the event, per CBSSports.com's Kevin Skiver:
- Michael Conlan (2-0, 2 KOs) vs. Jarrett Owen (5-4-3, 2 KOs), super bantamweight
- Jerwin Ancajas (26-1-1, 17 KOs) vs. Teiru Kinoshita (25-1-1, 8 KOs), super flyweight
- Shane Mosley Jr. (10-1-0, 7 KOs) vs David Toussaint (10-0, 8 KOs), super middleweight
The location is good news for Horn, a Brisbane native. Pacquiao, who has strung together strong wins over Jessie Vargas and Timothy Bradley Jr. since his loss to Floyd Mayweather, will be the biggest challenge of his career by far, and the odds are against him.
According to OddsShark, Horn is a 4-1 underdog and Pacquiao a 1-6 favorite. Those aren't terribly steep, and they likely speak to Horn's fresh, ready approach and the fact that the wheels might fall off Pacquiao at any time considering he's 38 and hasn't scored a knockout since 2009.
Horn is nine years younger than Pacquiao and undefeated to this point in his career, but it will likely take his best effort and the full support of what should be a massive hometown crowd to defeat the tenacious eight-division champion.
At Friday's weigh-in, Pacquiao weighed 146 pounds, per Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole, while Horn tipped the scales at 147 pounds. Pacquiao avoided addressing the media at the weigh-in, per the Australian Associated Press (via ESPN.com), but Horn was fairly open about the process and what he's focusing on to topple his legendary opponent.
"I keep going over this 10-point plan that Glenn's done up for me," he said, referring to trainer Glenn Rushton, per the AAP. "I just keep that in my mind, what I'm going to have to do in the ring, which will upset Manny."
Horn is coming off a good string of results, having forced stoppages in his last three matches, but he's only been a pro since 2013. He's a complete newcomer to the international frenzy that follows any Pacquiao fight, and though the latter has been focused on plenty beyond boxing over the past few years, he's still one of the best talents around.
Bloody Elbow's Fraser Coffeen believes Pacquiao is still at least a couple levels above Horn:
"Like I said, there are questions about Pacquiao's focus on boxing, and rightly so. But there's also absolutely no reason to think Jeff Horn is the fighter to translate that lack of focus into victory over the senator. Pacquiao remains one of the best talents in the game - neither Timothy Bradley nor Jessie Vargas are bad fighters by any wild stretch of the imagination, but Pac made both look levels below him just last year. Horn is pretty clearly a level below them, so it's hard to envision him having any more success."
Though Horn is Pacquiao's least notable opponent in quite some time, he's not taking the bout any less seriously. A loss or even just a ragged, poor showing in victory here would lead many to question his viability as one of the sport's superstars, and it would make it very difficult for him to get another premier opponent, should he choose to extend his career.
Per BoxNation, the southpaw is getting at it in training:
"I feel good, I've sparred more than 150 rounds so we feel ready. The hunger has returned for this fight" - @mannypacquiao2017-6-30 18:31:08
It's easy to see the fight going one of two ways: Pacquiao comes out guns blazing, looking to overwhelm Horn and prove that he hasn't lost his fire or much of his skill set. Or, knowing Horn has every reason to come out swinging while there is plenty more at stake for him, the Filipino fighter comes out tight and cautious and has to scrap his way to a points victory.
A victory for Horn, of course, isn't out of the realm of possibility, but when it's all said and done, Pacquiao should come away with a points win with a three- or four-round cushion.