BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Manny Pacquiao kept a low profile, apparently at the insistence of local police, leaving opponent Jeff Horn to entertain a bigger crowd at his downtown practice session than he’s attracted for previous fights.
Pacquiao, the 11-time world champion, is putting his WBO welterweight world title belt on the line on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium, where he’s a hot favorite to register his 60th professional win.
On a previous visit to promote the “Battle of Brisbane,” Pacquiao was mobbed by adoring fans in an unexpected rush at an impromptu public appearance.
So local organizers said they took advice from Queensland state police to give the senator from the Philippines time off from promotional activities Thursday while Horn appeared for a light practice session in a makeshift ring near the Queens Street Mall, reveling in the attention of hundreds of spectators enjoying a sunny lunch break.
“For safety purposes, Manny won’t be here today,” Duco Events director Dean Lonergan said. “We took that on advice from Queensland police.”
Pacquiao’s camp got his point across to local fans on Wednesday, anyway, when his legendary long-time trainer Freddie Roach predicted the fight would be “short and sweet” and that somebody would get knocked out.
Pacquiao (59-6-2) had the last of his 38 knockout wins in 2009, but he said he’s been working harder in preparation for this fight than he has in years. He has knocked down sparring partners, Roach said, and had to be forced to stop in some sessions because he was working too much.
Horn’s promotors have accused Pacquiao’s backers of not taking the fight seriously enough, accusing the 38-year-old Filipino of already talking about a potential rematch with Floyd Mayweather and of being disrespectful during a news conference by texting on his cell phone.
But Pacquiao is used to the pre-match games, and says he likes nothing better than to take on an opponent on their home soil and in front of a big crowd.
They’ll have that for the afternoon, outdoor fight. Lonergan said more than 47,000 tickets had already been sold — already almost 10,000 more than the Australian record for boxing — and they were on track to top 50,000. The fight is also tracking to sell more pay per views than any other in the Australian market, and the live ESPN broadcast could reach an estimated 95 million U.S. homes on Saturday night.
The odds-makers aren’t giving Horn, a 29-year-old former schoolteacher who is unbeaten in 17 professional fights, much of a chance against a seasoned, eight-division world champion.
But in and around his public skipping and shadow boxing sessions, Horn said he was bigger (he still needs to shed 3 kg to make the weight), younger and had what it takes to beat Pacquiao.
Since losing the megafight to Mayweather in April 2015, Pacquiao has rebounded to beat highly rated Tim Bradley and — after briefly flirting with retirement — Jessie Vargas.
Horn said he moves better than Vargas and will be a tougher option for Pacquiao.
“I haven’t pictured what punch … is going to happen,” Horn said. “All I’ve pictured for myself is my hand raised and that belt around my waist.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to knock him out, but I can win this.”
Horn has had 10 wins over top 15 world-rated opponents and his 16-0-1 record includes 11 knockouts. But none of those rivals have been anywhere close to Pacquiao’s caliber.
Still, when asked if he had the punch to knock out Pacquiao, Horn didn’t miss a beat.
“Definitely,” he said. “If I can land the right shot on Manny Pacquiao. He will go to sleep.
“I don’t say that disrespectfully as in ‘I’m definitely going to knock Manny Pacquioa out.’ But if I land that shot, he’s going to go down.”