They’re calling it the “Battle of Brisbane”, the fight between eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and unheralded Australian Jeff Horn that will have more than a passing interest for SA boxer Ali Funeka.
SuperSport 1 will cross to Brisbane at 3am on Sunday with the main bout expected to begin two to three hours after the start.
The man they call “Rush Hour” was Horn’s last opponent, getting sparked in six rounds in their fight in New Zealand in December.
“Horn has many chances,” said Funeka from his home in the Eastern Cape. “Pacman is old and not what he used to be. Horn didn’t hurt me, but his punches were accurate. I landed heavily on him in the first round, so Pacman might do the same. It’s a hard one to predict, but I guess it will come down to Pacman’s experience.”
Horn is as green as they come – he’s had 17 pro fights compared to the 67 of Pacquiao – but he has both youth and natural size on the champion.
Despite the hype, reflected in ticket sales approaching 50 000, it’s difficult to see how Horn might win. He isn’t a big puncher and his skills are solid rather than spectacular. This is in sharp contrast to Pacquiao who remains quick, packs a wallop and uses angles constantly.
Aged 38, Pacquiao’s commitment to training has been questioned, an issue he quickly put to bed upon his arrival in Brisbane.
“Some reports coming out of the Philippines that I haven’t been training hard are not true. It just happens that when some of our friends came around to our training camp, we weren’t doing much and people assumed I wasn’t training hard.
“It’s going to be a war. I’m expecting him to come inside close to me, fighting toe-to-toe and I’m ready for that.”
The undercard includes Filipino fighter Jerwin Ancajas defending his IBF junior-bantamweight title against mandatory challenger Teiru Kinoshita of Japan. Also fighting is Irish sensation Michael Conlan, who infamously flipped the bird to the judges after he was ripped off in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympic Games.