Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr were full of respect and praise for one another last night at the opening press conference for their August 21 world title fight.
The two southpaws will square off at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas on a night that will see Spence defend his WBC and IBF welterweight titles.
The 28th fight of Spence’s career will represent the biggest to date thanks to the profile of his iconic opponent. Pacquiao, now at 42 years old and after a two-year layoff, is hoping to turn back the clock once again.
Host Heidi Androl, who told Pacquiao, “this is your press conference”, had a comfortable variation of questions for both men but it seems like the sparks are being saved for next month.
“This is not an easy opponent,” said Pacquiao. “He’s the kind of fighter you never underestimate and cannot underestimate.”
Pacquiao will be participating in the 72nd fight of his career when he fights Spence. An incredible stat, and he was asked if the American will be a more of a test than that of Keith Thurman. ‘Pac Man’ gained a split-decision victory in July 2019 over the former welterweight champion and hasn’t fought since.
“It’s hard to compare. Keith Thurman is more competitive, more action, there’s little boxing in the ring but this opponent is different because he is a southpaw and aggressive fighter. So, it’s different to Thurman. He is right-handed. It’s been a while to fight a southpaw opponent.”
In that very fight Pacquiao put Thurman on the floor in the opening round. Androl asked the multi-weight world champion if he believes he will have similar success against the unbeaten Spence.
“I’m not predicting that. As I said I’m doing my best to focus on training and especially to focus my mind, my body and spirt to win the fight, that is our goal. Both of us have a goal like that.”
Spence thinks his renowned chin will be tested in this fight but says he doesn’t see anyone let alone Pacquiao ever knocking him out in his career.
“I don’t see it myself… ever getting knocked out. But we’re definitely gonna be cautious and mindful that he does have power, he did knock down Keith Thurman and hurt him with a body shot. We’re gonna keep that in mind but at the end of the day he’s not thinking about getting knocked out. Can he knock me out? I don’t think he or any fighter can knock me out.”
The question in reverse was put to the champion.
“I definitely have the ability to finish him. For me it’s to win the fight and stay focussed. When you go out and try to rush the fight and go for the knockout, I feel like from my experience in the amateurs you look sloppy, or something goes wrong. You look like you’re trying too hard. So, for me it’s go and have my fight, go and fight at my pace and if the knockout comes, go for it and if not go for the victory.”
A Manny Pacquiao fight normally has Floyd Mayweather’s name lurking in the background waiting for a tenuous link. Androl pointed out that ‘Money’ was going to reach out to Spence to give him some pointers after beating his biggest rival six years ago.
“He hasn’t reached out to me yet,” Spence laughed.
“He’s a guy that reaches out sometimes, talks to me and things like that. He tries to mentor me sometimes. If he says he’s gonna reach out he probably will.”
Pacquiao played the reverse psychology card, but the technique failed to work on Spence who isn’t in awe of the two legends.
“Errol don’t need to have advice from Floyd Mayweather because I believe Spence is better than Mayweather. He’s a [better] fighter than Mayweather, I think he would beat this Mayweather.”
“It is a great compliment,” Spence replied. “Manny Pacquiao is the kinda guy who will lull you to sleep. He’ll give you compliments and gratitude and things like that and as soon as the bell ring he’ll jumping all over you!”
In closing, just like the fighter’s final remarks, the press conference was an exercise in how to be professional, amicable with one or two comments that are just about enough to make it interesting. The fight will be another matter. Pacquiao’s speed and explosiveness against the size, jab and body shots of Spence. There are plenty ingredients to build up anticipation and excitement for what’s to come. The press conferences are nothing more than a necessary chore.
“It’s going to be a great fight, an entertaining fight. Pacquiao, he’s going to bring it like he always do, show a lot of heart and dedication and it’s going to be an entertaining fight for the fans and I’m definitely going to come away with the victory whether it’s a stoppage or a win,” said Spence at the end of proceedings.
“I would like to invite all the fans to watch this fight,” said Pacquiao who got last words. “This is one of a kind fight, a prestigious fight. It’s going to be a good fight. More action in the ring as we expected and thank you for all the support. I’m so thankful to God. Twenty years I have fighting in the States. I’m still fighting one of the best fighters in the world.”
Main image: FOX Sports/Premier Boxing Champions.