A potential box-off between two former boxing greats in Papua New Guinea is being touted as a ‘Las Vegas night‘ in the Pacific, but some are already deriding the event before the two men have even signed the paperwork.
In one corner would be Manny Pacquiao, an eight-time world champion from flyweight up to light-middleweight who has superstar status in his native Philippines.
In the other, Australia’s Anthony Mundine, a former world super-middleweight champion, albeit in a crowded division with several others laying claim to the same honour at the time.
But, that was then. And now both fighters are well into their 40s and neither has fought competitively since 2021. No wonder then that this will be an exhibition bout only, with no title on the line. Just large amounts of money for both.
The duo are set to fight in Port Moresby in June in a bout which is being billed as The Man (Mundine) vs The Pac-Man (Pacquiao). With Pacquiao’s God-like status in the Philippines – where’s he now a senator – there is clearly a large market for an event – any event – involving him.
Mike Tyson’s last ‘fight’ shows what money there is even for an exhibition. The ex-heavyweight champion and another legend of the sport Roy Jones Jr laced on the gloves again in 2020 despite Tyson being 54 and Jones 51.
The bout was shown on pay-per-view garnering over 1.6 million buys, raking in over US$80 million. It may say something about the current state of the sport that this battle of the veterans was the biggest boxing pay-per-view event of 2020.
Port Moresby event promoter Peter Maniatis said while they have agreed terms, they are yet to sign the fight contract but that shouldn’t be far off.
But he believed the exhibition fight will be “something Papua New Guinea has never witnessed”.
“We’ll be doing a lot of promotion and they’ll probably be a lot of people from the Philippines come into the fight and also a lot of people from Australia as well.
“So tourism is going to benefit. When Jeff Horn fought Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane (in July 2017), there were 51,000 people there and Tourism Queensland came in on a part deal and they made up to 70/80 million with all the restaurants and hotels being sold out.”
Nevertheless, renowned boxing aficionado Sir Bob Jones said Pacquiao, who is 44, and Mundine, who is 47, are well past their best and he was particularly scathing about the Australian.
“He’d have great difficulty now (getting a fight). No one in Australia would put Mundine on. And no one would attend because we know he’s washed up.
“He did fight somebody recently, quite a light puncher and he lasted about two minutes. And that was the end of him. “He was a very fine athlete at his best I’ll say that, but that was 20 years ago. And Pacquiao, his peak was 20 years ago
as well if not longer. And they’re going there because no one else would take them.”
Jones doesn’t believe the bout will enhance boxing in PNG or the wider Pacific due to the “farcical” nature of the contest and feels they would have more success in going to Port Moresby to “sign autographs and have their selfies taken”.
Michael Zerafa ended Mundine’s professional career with a first round stoppage in March 2021, which followed two successive defeats in the previous three years. The Australian’s last win was five years ago. Pacquiao’s last competitive fight was far more honourable, a points defeat to world-ranked welterweight Yordenis Ugas in August 2021.
Long-time New Zealand boxing administrator Pat Leonard also questioned the motives for the event.
“Though I have the highest respect for both boxers for their past boxing activities, I myself, personally, find it ludicrous and possibly dangerous.
2I have been a supervisor at many exhibitions. There are no judges, a referee only to keep affairs orderly and calm. I always had a discussion with a referee before an exhibition to ensure that exhibition rules stand, and a number of exhibitions stopped accordingly, when it got too willing.
“For myself personally, would I support a ‘farce’ like this? No.”
But Peter Maniatis is having none of that.
2These guys are premium pound-for-pound stars. They’ve got big, big egos, Manny Pacquiao is the eight-time world champion in boxing and everything Manny does, whether it’s chess, whether it’s billiards, he hates to lose.
“And Anthony is the same. So you get those two guys in a ring, that’s gonna be beamed all around the world, they’re not going to be taking a backward step.
“It’s still going to be a high quality match because it’s between two exceptional athletes.”
Unlike other Pacific countries such as Fiji and Samoa, there is little boxing strength in Papua New Guinea and very few good professional fighters have emerged from the country. Johnny Aba won the Commonwealth super-featherweight title in 1977 and after a string of defences faced off against
legendary Panamanian, Eusebio Pedroza, in Port Moresby in November 1979 for the WBA featherwight title, which was then a prestigious belt.
It was the champion Pedroza’s sixth defence and came shortly after he had KO’d one of Mexico’s all-time greats, Ruben Olivares. Pedroza built up a sizeable lead before stopping the brave but outclassed Aba in the 11th round.
Another local fighter of the same era, Martin Beni, built up an impressive record to force a challenge to Commonwealth light-welterweight champion Hector Thompson in December 1976 and was stopped in 10 rounds.
Those were redoubtable fighters of their time, but currently no PNG professional fighters are ranked anywhere in the world and according to boxrec.com, which records every fighter’s records, the best male fighter has a two wins, two loss records. Maniatis said the undercard will likely feature fighters from PNG, the Philippines and Australia. Maniatis will hope that the interest in the names of the two boxers are enough alone to stir interest in what seems little more than a nostalgia trip.