Manny Pacquiao says as his milestone birthday hovers next month that “life begins at 40,” but he can’t help to peer back in time.
In returning to fight in the U.S. for the first time in more than two years Jan. 19 in a Showtime pay-per-view against former four-division champion Adrien Broner at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Pacquiao says he plans to reunite with trainer Freddie Roach.
And the sentimental bent continues, since a Pacquiao victory will strongly position him for a rematch against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. later in 2019.
Enthused by his first knockout victory since 2009 when he stopped Lucas Matthysse in July to win the secondary World Boxing Assn. welterweight belt, Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) said he was encouraged by a meeting with Mayweather in Japan earlier this year and understands a strong showing against Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) would sway his rival to unretire again.
The pair fought in the most lucrative one-day sporting event in history in 2015, with Mayweather winning by unanimous decision while Pacquiao blamed a shoulder injury suffered in training camp for a lackluster showing.
“I’m sure I’ll win convincingly [against Broner]. I’ll do my best,” Pacquiao said.
While Mayweather has played coy about a second Pacquiao fight since the Japan meeting, Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza said, “Floyd doesn’t like people expecting what he’s going to do. Having spoken to him, he made it clear his interest in fighting Pacquiao is very real.”
Although Cincinnati's Broner, 29, has never been stopped, Pacquiao said, “Nothing is impossible if you believe.”
Espinoza and Broner promoter Leonard Ellerbe said Broner’s 3-2-1 record since 2015 has left him desperate to reinvigorate his career in a deep division that includes unbeaten champions Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Terence Crawford.
“His athleticism, the counter-punching … say what you want about Broner outside the ring, he’s quick, has power and fights until the end,” Espinoza said.
“If you’re betting NFL games, there’s a theory to bet on the team that needs it more. Adrien needs this to stay relevant, and to those who consider his career a bit of a letdown, this can wipe the slate clean and make him as relevant as he’s ever been.”
Broner pointed to his body of work to defend his chances: “Look what I do to southpaws: I stop them. He’s another southpaw.”
Pacquiao aligned with the head of Premier Boxing Champions, Al Haymon, to get this fight while a significant debt to the IRS estimated to be in eight figures awaited him here.
“I’m not worried about it. I’m not running from it. We’re fixing it,” Pacquiao said of the tax bill.
There’s also some repair work needed between Pacquiao and Roach, the seven-time trainer of the year based at Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club who was uninvited to the victory in Malaysia that former assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez supervised.
Pacquiao said he wants Fernandez to still work the mitts, but he seeks Roach as the “supervisor” of the training camp that will go for four weeks in the Philippines before returning to the U.S. on Dec. 21, according to conditioning coach Justin Fortune.
Before Tuesday night’s planned meeting, Roach said, “I’ve yet to speak with Manny directly. That would need to happen before any decision is made, as to whether we work together again.”
Pacquiao worked to soothe any hard feelings over straying away after a loss in Australia to Jeff Horn, when Roach asked Pacquiao if he still had the sincere desire to participate in championship fights given his work as a senator in the Philippines.
“I’ve always included Freddie as part of my team. We didn’t lose connection with Freddie,” Pacquiao said. “I had work in the Philippines and I had to stay there a long time and I had no time to talk to many people, including many of my friends. … We need Freddie.”
Broner was caught by surprise by Tuesday’s news of the fighter-trainer union that ranks among the most successful in the sport’s history, alongside Muhammad Ali and Angelo Dundee.
“Oh, you’re bringing Freddie back?” Broner asked.