By Nick Giongco
Brisbane, Australia – Some people are talking about a changing of the guard as Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring and defends the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown against unbeaten Jeff Horn early afternoon of Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
But Pacquiao, the 38-year-old Filipino eight-division champion, refuses to acknowledge that the torch is about to be passed and a young lion is taking over the pride.
“I feel great and I am ready to defend and keep my crown,” Pacquiao said after weighing in at 146 lb. during the official weigh-in Saturday morning at one of the halls of 52,500-seat arena.
The division limit is 147 lb.
Pacquiao, the prohibitive favorite, later feasted on steamed white rice, beef stew, beef soup, stir-fried bitter gourd with egg, roasted chicken, and boiled eggs after conquering the scales.
Joined by a bevy of political personalities, Pacquiao consumed a mountain of rice and took a generous portion of the delectable dishes on the table as he gets ready to make the first defense of the WBO 147-lb title he took last year in Las Vegas.
“Excited to be fighting again and looking forward to put on a big show for the boxing fans,” said Pacquiao, whose next fight could be in November provided that he survives the fresher and younger Horn.
While he has talked about luring Floyd Mayweather into a rematch, Pacquiao (59-6-2 with 38 KOs) insists that he is not looking past Horn (16-0-1 with 11 KOs).
“We trained hard and I can’t wait to show everyone that I still have it,” added Pacquiao, who executed his trademark muscle-flexing move after making the weight.
Those in attendance cheered when Pacquiao pulled off this act while the reaction to Horn’s ability to get down to 147 lbs sounded like pieces of paper being crumpled.
There were concerns earlier when Horn himself disclosed that he was still carrying excess baggage less than 48 hours before the fight.
But Horn, a former schoolteacher, didn’t look as though he had to go through hell in dropping to 147 after telling a large gathering Thursday that he was still more than two kilos overweight.
Apparently, the reduction wasn’t at all too drastic as Horn didn’t appear to be gaunt and was even in a bubbly mood.
Still, Horn swears that he encountered a bit of difficulty dropping.
“It’s never easy to lose weight,” he said.
“I’m going to feel a lot better very soon. I’ve got to go eat as soon as I finish with the media, keep drinking, keep up with the fluids all day, all night.”
Now that the second-most important task has been overcome, Horn stressed that focus has now shifted to following the game plan point-by-point.
“I am going to keep going over the plan and keep everything in mind so I can get the job done,” said the blue-eyed Brisbane bomber, who even sparred during the eve of the weigh-in as a way to get rid of extra weight.
Glenn Rushton, Horn’s long-time trainer, remains confident that Pacquiao will pay dearly for underestimating his fighter.
“They will know how good Jeff is… how competitive and technically proficient he is,” added Rushton.
But Hall of Famer Freddie Roach has none of Rushton’s bold words.
“We’ll knock him out if he decides to engage early,” said Roach, noting that doing so would render the scorecsheets of the judges meaningless.
The referee, incidentally, will be Marc Nelson of Minnesota and the three judges are Ramon Cerdan of Argentina, Chris Florez of Arizona and Waleska Roldan of New York.
But even if the fight goes the full route, Roach added that he doesn’t have any issues with all of them.
Besides, Roach believes Pacquiao can get it done in a couple of rounds.
“Manny can get him in two (rounds),” he added.
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