LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Manny Pacquiao is aiming to offer fresh evidence that life begins at 40 when the Filipino veteran takes on Adrien Broner on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) in his first fight in Las Vegas for more than two years.
Pacquiao, who celebrated his 40th birthday last month with a lavish birthday party in the Philippines, defends his WBA regular welterweight crown against Broner at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It is the Filipino’s first bout on US soil since a unanimous decision win over Jessie Vargas in the Nevada boxing and gaming capital in November 2016.
Since then, Pacquiao’s career has followed an uncertain trajectory, with a shock defeat to Australia’s Jeff Horn in Brisbane in 2017 followed by a year-long absence from the ring.
Pacquiao (60-4-2, 39 knockouts) made a triumphant return in Kuala Lumpur last July, scoring his first knockout win in six years with a seventh-round stoppage of Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse.
That impressive return paved the way for Saturday’s bout with the 29-year-old Broner, who boasts 33 wins, 24 by knockout in his 38-fight career.
While Pacquiao insists he is looking no further than Saturday’s contest against Broner, many observers view the fight as a stepping stone towards a possible rematch with Floyd Mayweather following their money-spinning 2015 superfight.
“My plan is one at a time,” Pacquiao told AFP. “I cannot say about the future until January 19. After that we’ll have a press conference. Leave it as a question mark for now.
“I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. But I want to maintain my name at the top and to show that even at 40 years old I can still give the best of Manny Pacquiao, the speed, the power, everything.”
Broner meanwhile has bristled at any suggestion Pacquiao is already looking past him towards a bigger payday.
“People are talking a lot about Pacquiao fighting Floyd Mayweather again, but I’m pretty sure Floyd is retired,” Broner said this week. “I feel like people are trying to throw me to the wolves and overlook me.
“Manny Pacquiao has done a lot for the sport. I’m going to beat him up and have a drink with him afterward...I’m going to dominate and win.”
Perhaps significantly, Pacquiao’s preparations have been strengthened by the return to his corner of trainer Freddie Roach.
Roach and Pacquiao split following the 2017 defeat to Horn, when Pacquiao apparently took umbrage at Roach’s statement that his political career in the Philippines — he was elected to the Philippine Senate in 2016 — was incompatible with boxing.
“After the fight in Australia, I explained to Manny that being a Senator and being a professional champion boxer is very difficult,” Roach told AFP.
“That training camp was up and down — sometimes he’d get out of the Senate at three o’clock in the afternoon, sometimes 10 o’clock at night. But we still had to train. His schedule was not great, I felt.
“I wasn’t telling him which way to go or anything, I just said ‘I think you should do one or the other.’ So then we didn’t speak for a long time. I called Manny’s number a couple of times and left a message, but no response. So then I took it I was fired.”
The bond forged during a successful 15-year partnership, however, was not so easily discarded. The two men reconciled in November after a press conference in Los Angeles.
“Manny called me up and said ‘Can I meet you at the hotel?’,” Roach revealed. “I said ‘Yeah sure’. We had a little meeting.
“He said ‘I’m sorry I didn’t invite you to the last fight’. I said ‘Forget about it, that’s gone. Where are we at right now?’. And we started negotiating like we always have done.”
Roach, who has shared the training duties with Pacquiao’s friend Buboy Fernandez, has been impressed by the Filipino’s performance in camp.
“He hit me a shot in the chest the other day and my whole body went numb,” Roach said. “His power is unbelievable.
“I’m excited for this fight. He got his first knockout in six years in his last fight and it feels like he’s carried it over into this fight. He’s got that killer instinct back.”