Ever since Manny Pacquiao had his first post-retirement exhibit bout last year, other fighters have shown interest in figuring with the eight-division boxing champion. The challengers come in different shapes and sizes, from boxers, both active and retired, to martial artists. Even pro wrestlers.
Here are five combat sports athletes vying to meet Pacquiao mano a mano this 2023.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr
It all started when Pacquiao was in attendance in Mayweather’s fight at Super RIZIN. Tongues would not stop wagging after that.
After all, once in a lifetime is not enough for these two still-living legends. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena, which was dubbed by the WWE as “Once in a Lifetime”, got to face each other twice in the biggest stage of them all – WrestleMania, then why not Manny and Floyd?
Sure, at this point of their respective careers (or lives), it would be in an exhibition capacity. Although, no one’s stopping them from turning it into a sanctioned match.
Either way, would anyone care? A fight of this magnitude would not require a championship belt or a sanctioning body even. Just hash out the details, set a date, and show up.
Seeing how the exhibition circuit has been lucrative and created its own niche among fight fans, the only questions need to be answered are “how much” and “when”.
Someone should book this.
Benn is a boxer from the United Kingdom whose boxing career was put to a half after he failed a drug test. He was not officially suspended, but his face-off against fellow British boxer Chris Eubank, Jr was canceled due to it.
Now that the issue has cooled down, he is eyeing to make a comeback on the squared circle. His opponent of choice? “PacMan” himself.
Benn might not be a familiar name to casual fans, but he remains undefeated in 21 professional contests. His last fight was against Chis van Herdeen in April 2022, winning via TKO on the second round.
What makes this encounter probable is that Pacquiao is slated to make live appearances in the UK later this year. In that case, why not have a pitstop on the tour with a bout against a local?
Now, whether Manny would go out of retirement for this remains to be seen.
Mundine is who you might consider as the Australian version of Pacquiao. He is a two-sport professional as well as a singer, just like Manny.
This prospective battle is being brokered by Peter Maniatis, a sports journalist and boxing promoter. What he has in mind is a six-round exhibition to be held in the spacious Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
They went to the Philippines to seal the deal with “PacMan”. However, no information has been shared to the public as of yet.
Known as “The Man”, Mundine has compiled a boxing win-loss record of 48 wins and 11 losses, along with 28 knockouts. A son of a former boxer, he held several boxing titles. He last fought in 2021, losing to Michael Zerafa on the first round.
Prior to taking up the sweet science, the Australian Aborigine was a rugby league player and was active between 1993 and 2000.
We have mentioned about Ibushi in a separate article.
As of time of publishing, there has been no new development. RIZIN CEO Sakakibara Nobuyuki clarified that this is something he would like to see, but at the same time, nothing has been put to paper yet.
Nevertheless, Ibushi is occupied with reviving his pro wrestling career. He was shelved by his then promotion New Japan Pro-Wrestling due to injury until his contract expired earlier this year.
That said, Pacquiao has had connections with the world of kayfabe. WWE hall of famer The Undertaker and AEW star Christian Cage once marched Manny to the ring in the latter’s match against Héctor Velázquez.
The former Philippine senator is also a fan of Filipino-American wrestler TJP. Pacquiao even wished Perkins good luck on Twitter before a clash at NJPW.
As of the moment, this dream match is just that: a dream. But in the pro wrestling universe, anything is possible. No one expected CM Punk to make a comeback after seven years. But he did.
While researching on the planned Ibushi bout, another name popped up: Kell Brook. Who is Brook, you say?
He is a recently retired boxer who held the IBF welterweight belt between 2014 and 2017. He was ranked in 2017 by The Ring magazine as the world’s best active welterweight.
“Special K” sports a professional record of 40-3, 28 of his wins via KO. His last opponent was Amir Khan, who he defeated via TKO in six rounds.
Only 36 years old, he still has a lot of gas left in him when compared to the other challengers. Among the ones listed here, Benn is the youngest at 26. Everybody else is 40 or above.
Aside from Mayweather, a slugfest with Brook is the closest we might possibly get to have Pacquiao (and Brook) unretiring and turning this into a sanctioned contest.
There you have it. A brief list of brave men who wants a piece of “PacMan”. If these all push through, then it would be a busy 2023 for Manny.