BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Manny Pacquiao isn’t saying it publicly, preferring not to dwell too much on landing a knockout blow.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, isn’t pulling any punches, though. Roach reckons the WBO welterweight world championship fight against Jeff Horn on Sunday will be “short and sweet.”
“Manny is in great shape,” Roach said. “He doesn’t like to predict knockouts, but I do. It’s going to be short and sweet.
“If Horn comes out likes he says he’s gonna, Manny will fire back. I think it’s going to be a great fight but it won’t last too long — someone will get knocked out.”
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Pacquiao, who hasn’t won by knockout since 2009, said he has a few strategies to handle Horn, who is unbeaten in 17 fights since turning pro in 2013. The 38-year-old Philippines senator has knocked sparring partners down in training and said he’s feeling better than he has in a while.
Roach said the training camp has been more like a vintage Pacquiao preparation.
“The thing is, in sparring, we haven’t had knockdowns and knockouts in a long time. This time we did,” the legendary trainer said. “Manny has been his old self, having fun and doing what he does best.”
Pacquiao said he likes to fight boxers in front of their home crowd, and recalled a similar bout with Marco Antonio Barrera at San Antonio, Texas, in 2003.
“I feel excited for the fight. Everything is all set,” he said. “I like to fight a home advantage of my opponent so that there are a lot of fans cheering for him. That gives me a lot of motivation, determination and focus to win the fight.
“I’m not taking it lightly. I’m seriously focused.”
The afternoon fight is being dubbed the “Battle of Brisbane” and will be staged at the outdoor Suncorp Stadium, with an expected crowd of more than 50,000 and in forecast sunny skies and a high of about 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit).
It will be broadcast live on the U.S. east coast at 9 p.m. on Saturday by ESPN, with Pacquiao’s handlers expecting the timing to expose the Filipino boxer to millions of new fans.
Horn’s trainer, Glenn Rushton, believes Pacquiao’s camp has underestimated the Australian boxer by talking already about future rematches with Floyd Mayweather.
“I believe this fight will end in a stoppage. As much as I respect (Roach) for his wealth of experience — he’s trained more world champions than most boxers have had professional fights — I think he’s wrong,” Rushton said. “Where he’s talking about an early stoppage I don’t see that at all.
“I see this going deep. I think it’ll be a late stoppage after a torrid war. I do think Freddie and Manny are underestimating Jeff … (and) when they get out there, it’s going to be so different.”
Horn’s promotor Dean Lonergan also picked up on the theme, highlighting Pacquiao’s continual attention to his cell phone during Wednesday’s official news conference and describing the 11-time world champion Filipino fighter as a “world champion texter.”
For his part, the 29-year-old Horn didn’t mind it if Roach and Co. are expecting a knockout.
“I was surprised to hear them say that, actually,” the former school teacher said. “If he’s looking for a knockout it always makes you vulnerable. If you look for a knockout, it usually doesn’t come and you leave lots of openings.”
Pacquiao said he never predicted how he’d win a fight, and said he only spoke about a potential rematch with Mayweather because he was answering questions about it from the media.
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 knockouts) explained that he was preparing notes on his phone regarding who to thank during the news conference and didn’t mean any offense.
He rejected any suggestion he was taking Horn lightly, saying he’d worked so hard in training at times that Roach had ordered him to stop, and he was ready to put his WBO belt and his reputation on the line.