YOU can understand the trepidation boxing fans felt when Manny Pacquiao announced that his team was negotiating for a possible showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko, the reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior lightweight (130 lbs.) champion and consensus pound-for-pound king in boxing today.
The last time Pacquiao was in the ring, some six months ago, he got bullied and absorbed a shocking decision loss to unheralded challenger Jeff Horn. If he cannot tame a hush puppy like Horn, not a few thought that Pacquiao was taking a huge risk by taking on the ultra-talented Lomachenko who is already a two-division world champion despite having amassed only 11 fights as a professional.
Pacquiao- Lomachenko was a hot topic until the Ukrainian's camp shot it down with the tenacity of an Uzi peppering a hot air balloon. Lomachenko's manager, Egis Klimas, told ESPN that such a matchup is 'insane' considering the weight disparity between the two fighters. Pacquiao fights at welterweight which has a maximum weight of 147 pounds while Lomachenko tips the scales at the junior lightweight limit of 130 pounds. That alone makes for a 17-pound difference.
From where this writer sits, Pacquiao floated the idea of pursuing Lomachenko to simply test the waters; to check if he can still raise a few eyebrows in the boxing community. At age 39 and having lost two of his last four fights, Pacquiao is no longer the fistic sensation he once was. Pacquiao has not scored a knockout since 2009 and has not been a box-office draw since the disappointing showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015. In fact, the recent loss to Horn raised calls, including one coming straight from his trainer Freddie Roach, for the 'PacMan' to call it a day.
Paqcuiao succeeded in drawing media mileage by tossing a possible showdown with Lomachenko, but he knew from the outset that such a pronouncement has as much foundation as a sandcastle. The heaviest Lomachenko has weighed is 130 pounds and his camp is only amenable to a showdown with Pacquiao at the lightweight limit of 135 pounds. Clearly, Pacquiao will have to shave more than his moustache to trim down to the lightweight division which he last ruled in 2008.
Roach says he is all for a Pacquiao- Lomachenko showdown, adding that unbeaten American Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 knockouts), who is booked to challenge Horn for the WBO welterweight title on April 14, is too big for the Filipino. If Roach would have it his way, Pacquiao can go down in the vicinity of 140 pounds and meet Lomachenko halfway.
But here lies the problem with Roach's view: Another catch weight match for Pacquiao will do more harm to his legacy. Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, and Antonio Margarito are some of the marquee names who suppressed their fighting weights just to please Pacquiao and get that hefty paycheck. This has drawn criticism from several quarters, with some criticizing Pacquiao for using his then proven marketability to force opponents to bow down to his terms. Lomachenko has no intention of taking the bait and insists that he can only go as high as 135 pounds. Times have changed and Pacquiao is no longer in the position to impose terms and conditions.
In the final analysis, Pacquiao should really pick on somebody his size. Considering that he now fights in the welterweight division, the logical choice is Crawford or any legit 147-pounder. Mike Alvarado and Amir Khan have been mentioned and any one of these two welterweights will make for the ideal fight for Pacquiao as he waits for the winner of Crawford-Horn. Thereafter, Pacquiao can make that long overdue ride into the sunset.