Boxing: 'Too early to tell' if Pacquiao can fight again this year

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2020 11:48 AM

WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao poses during a news conference at MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 17, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller, Getty Images/AFP

MANILA, Philippines -- Manny Pacquiao, like most other boxers, is in a "holding pattern" as far as the rest of 2020 is concerned, according to MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons. 

Pacquiao has not fought since July 20 of last year, when he edged Keith Thurman in an exciting bout to claim the "super" version of the WBA welterweight title. In the process, Pacquiao -- then 40 years old -- became the oldest boxer to win a welterweight championship.

When asked during a recent appearance at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum if Pacquiao could fight in 2020, Gibbons was non-committal.

"I think, I mean, there's a possibility," said the promoter.

"But you gotta remember -- there's a lot of things that need to happen," he said. "First of all, COVID-19 needs to rapidly slow down in the United States, or in Saudi Arabia where we've had offers."

The global health crisis has forced virtually all sports to stop for months, although boxing events are making a slow return. Top Rank Promotions has boxers in a "bubble" in Las Vegas, where it is holding fights in the MGM Grand. 

In the Philippines, boxing matches have been given the go-signal by the Inter-Agency Task Force, albeit in a smaller scale. 

Gibbons pointed out that the pandemic is not the only hindrance for a return to the ring for the "Pacman."

"The other thing is the senator's schedule, again," he said. "You gotta remember, his time to fight is generally July, January, July, January, due to his schedule in the senate."

In 2019, Pacquiao fought twice, outpointing Adrien Broner in January before his split decision win over Thurman later that year. He only fought once in 2018, stopping Lucas Matthysse in July in a bout held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

It was his first fight since a highly controversial defeat to unheralded Jeff Horn in Australia in July 2017.

As it is, Gibbons can make no promises on when Pacquiao will fight again.

"It's just too early still to tell if he'll be able to return," he explained. "We're right in the heat of COVID-19, so really, everybody's just kind of in a holding pattern."

Two other Filipino world champions are likely to step into the ring this year, however. Gibbons said that both Jerwin Ancajas and Johnriel Casimero are set to defend their respective titles, possibly in October.

"Jerwin should have his visa here in the next couple of weeks, then he'll defend against Jonathan Javier Rodriguez, in hopefully September, October, depending on when he gets here," Gibbons said of Ancajas, who currently holds the IBF junior bantamweight title.

"Casimero is training," added the promoter. "We're waiting on a few things."

Casimero was in line for a title unification bout against Japan's Naoya Inoue, but plans were scuppered due to the pandemic. It remains to be seen when the fight will be rescheduled, but Gibbons says Casimero will stay active in the meantime.

"Casimero will be back in the ring with somebody in October of this year," Gibbons promised.

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