Manny Pacquiao won’t underestimate ‘OK’ Jeff Horn

Ryan Songalia
Manny Pacquiao won’t underestimate ‘OK’ Jeff Horn
Freddie Roach isn't worried about how Pacquiao looks early in training after months out of the ring

MANILA, Philippines – “Give me a break,” Freddie Roach says as he backs into a corner for a breather. Roach, by then on the ninth round of 12 during a punch mitt session with Manny Pacquiao, was feeling the pressure as the WBO welterweight champion added on shots to the combinations already called for by his coach.

“It’s just a warm-up,” said Pacquiao as he mimed punches while waiting for Roach to reset.

That was the mood on Friday afternoon, May 26 at the Elorde Gym at Five E-Com Center in Pasay City, Philippines, as Pacquiao chugged along in training for his July 2 defense against unbeaten but untested Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 knockouts), whom he’ll fight at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.

Aside from Pacquiao’s workout, there was levity in the air. Milan Melindo, the recently crowned IBF junior flyweight champion from Cagayan de Oro City, made an appearance at the gym, with Pacquiao suggesting he’d give Melindo a “bonus” for his victory. Before Pacquiao arrived, retired ‘90s fighters Robert Varron and Noel “Hammer Pan” Panescoro sparred to prepare for a Team Pacquiao vs Team Elorde tournament set for June 17.

Roach downplayed concerns about Pacquiao looking sluggish in his first sparring sessions earlier this week against Filipinos Leonardo Doronio (15-14-3, 10 KOs) and Sonny Katiandagho (11-2, 6 KOs). Roach had told reporters that Pacquiao’s training was behind schedule, and that his sparring was the worst he’d ever seen from him.

“He hasn’t boxed in 8 months, give me a break,” said Roach. “The thing is boxing, when you take time off, you lose a lot. It takes a while to come back, that’s normal. I didn’t expect him to look good, but I’m not gonna say he looked great and lie to him because I have to be honest with him. If you’re not honest with your fighter, who can be?”

He says Michael Koncz will arrive in the Philippines on Saturday with a sparring partner from Mexico whose name he couldn’t recall, but says he was handpicked by Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler. He has another in Australia “waiting for a call.”

What Roach is concerned about is where exactly they’ll be training. They’re currently in Metro Manila at the same facility near the Philippine Senate where they’ve set up camp since Pacquiao was elected as a legislator, but that could change.

“Depends on whether we move or not, when we move, if we move,” said Roach about Pacquiao’s sparring schedule. “I don’t want to fly those guys in and then have to fly them all the way into General Santos if we go there, or we go to Australia. Wherever we go.

“He hasn’t made his mind up. There’s Martial Law now so that could change things. Changes in the Senate also, his schedule could change.”

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Still, Roach is confident about their chances against Horn, who at 29 is 9 years younger than the 8-division champion Pacquiao.

“If we’re at our best, we’ll destroy him,” said Roach. “We’re never not at our best going into the ring.”

Pacquiao insisted that not only is he not behind in his training schedule, but that he’s ahead of schedule. He had previously said he had never heard of Horn before he signed to fight him, and still sounds underwhelmed but professional about his next assignment.

“Jeff Horn? He’s OK, he’s OK. I cannot underestimate him,” said Pacquiao. “We have to make sure we’re 100% conditioning.” –

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