Manny Pacquiao says he opted to take on the undefeated Errol Spence Jr next month ahead of easier opponents because he wanted a “real fight”, deeming the American a superior fighter to old foe Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao, 42, returns to the ring for the first time in more than two years on August 21, when he takes on the unbeaten WBC and IBF welterweight champion at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Spence, with 27 wins from 27 professional bouts, is 11 years Pacquiao’s junior.
The two fighters formally announced the bout early on Monday at a news conference in Los Angeles, with Pacquiao saying: “There was a lot of opportunity to pick a, not easy fight, but a much easier fight compared to Errol Spence.
“But I decided to pick Errol Spence because I want to give a good fight to the fans, I want a real fight. I’m a fighter and boxing is my passion.”
Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion, hasn’t fought since July 2019, when he won a split decision against Keith Thurman to capture the WBA “super” belt. He was later stripped of the title because of inactivity, with the sanctioning body recently denying a petition for the Filipino to be reinstated.
Irrespective of that, there will be three belts on the line when Pacquiao faces Spence - the Ring Magazine welterweight crown has been added to the contest – as the sitting senator in the Philippines seeks to add another significant notch on his guaranteed Hall-of-Fame career.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges in my career,” said Pacquiao, whose record stands at 62-7-2 (39 KOs). “I cannot say the biggest challenge because I have been fighting the best fighters in the world: Keith Thurman, [Oscar] De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, a lot of those fighters. But one of the best, I can rate [Spence].”
A prime Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) is considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport. He returned to the ring in December following a near-fatal, single-car crash in late 2019, dominating Danny Garcia to win by unanimous decision.
On Pacquiao, Spence said: “I definitely have the ability to finish him, but for me it’s about winning the fight. It’s to stay focused and win the fight. When you go out there and rush it and try to go for the knockout, I feel like from my experience - even in the amateurs - you look sloppy and something goes wrong. You look like you’re trying too hard.
“For me, it’s to go have my fight at my pace. If the knockout comes, go for it. If not, go for the victory. I definitely have the ability to finish him. But it’s about winning the fight.”
Meanwhile, Mayweather Jr has already commented on the encounter, saying that, although he wishes both boxers the best, that he is rooting for Spence. The American, who defeated Pacquiao on points in 2015 in boxing’s most lucrative bout, also offered to give Spence tips on how to prevail.
However, Pacquiao said: “Errol doesn’t need to get advice from Mayweather, because I believe that Errol is better than Mayweather. He will teach Mayweather how to fight toe-to-toe.”