The possibility of Manny Pacquiao fighting April 14 in Las Vegas is looking increasingly doubtful and is expected to be officially clarified this week.
In addition to the matter of when he’ll fight again, there’s also some question about who’ll be in his corner.
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime trainer who’s been alongside the seven-division world champion since 2001, was sitting ringside at Saturday night’s “SuperFly 2” card at the Forum and said he’s uncertain when the 39-year-old Pacquiao will fight next.
“I usually leave him alone until I hear from him, but I’ve called him five times and haven’t heard back,” Roach told The Times. “Maybe he changed his number. … ”
The top two officials at Pacquiao’s promotional company, Top Rank, told The Times two weeks ago the plan was to move Pacquiao’s tentatively scheduled return bout from Madison Square Garden to Mandalay Bay on April 14.
But amid a serious backlash about the quality of Pacquiao’s opponent, former 140-pound champion Mike Alvarado, Top Rank President Todd duBoef told The Times on Monday that “we’re working through a bunch of stuff now, putting stuff together,” and declined to comment beyond that.
Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum clarified that unbeaten Terence Crawford, the former junior-welterweight champion, will “absolutely” be fighting World Boxing Organization champion Jeff Horn of Australia on April 14 at Mandalay Bay in a fight to be broadcast on ESPN.
Asked about Pacquiao, Arum said, “We’re going to have an announcement in the next couple days. I can’t talk about it.”
Pacquiao’s loyalty to Roach has been unquestioned for years — and could very well remain strong — but Arum and Pacquiao manager Michael Koncz criticized the veteran cornerman for not being more assertive with referee Mark Nelson in July when Horn roughed up Pacquiao en route to a controversial unanimous-decision victory over Pacquiao in Australia.
And there have been rumors in the Philippines that Pacquiao would consider promoting Buboy Fernandez, his best friend and assistant cornerman.
The main conundrum is who to put in the ring against Pacquiao, who is seeking his 60th career victory.
Arum is friendly with the World Boxing Organization, which has a vacant belt at 140 pounds, so something could get arranged there to give Pacquiao (59-7-2) a chance to earn a major title in a record eighth weight class after knocking out Ricky Hatton in 2009 for the International Boxing Organization’s 140-pound belt.
There’s also the possibility of fighting two-division champion Vasyl Lomachenko or waiting for the Crawford-Horn winner. A Lomachenko matchup, though, is reminiscent of Pacquiao’s 2008 domination of Oscar De La Hoya in the Golden Boy’s farewell fight, and Roach frowns on fighting the gifted Crawford, The Times’ No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer.
Arum said he’s still hopeful of pitting Lomachenko against World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Jorge Linares on May 12 at Madison Square Garden.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When sensible people try to find a solution, they’ll find a solution,” Arum said. “We’re on our way to finding a solution. People are working behind the scenes to make it happen, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”
New World Boxing Organization lightweight champion Ray Beltran could fight Lomachenko if the Linares matchup does not happen.