By Dan Rafael for ESPN
While Manny Pacquiao recovers from surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is working on putting together his ring return.
Arum told ESPN.com on Monday that Pacquiao’s return will come in February or March — but no later than the second week of April — and take place at a venue to be determined in Las Vegas. No more “schlepping” to Macau, China, Arum said.
“Manny will be fighting next year,” Arum said. “I think everything will be good for him to fight by February. He can probably start training by the end of this year. We’ll let the doctor tell us when. I thought maybe Manny would fight one or two more times, and when I said that, Manny corrected me. He said he wants to keep fighting.”
On May 2, Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs), 36, lost a unanimous decision to Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in their long-anticipated welterweight title unification megafight, which shattered all boxing revenue records. Among the records it blew away were those for overall revenue (approximately $600 million), domestic pay-per-view subscriptions (4.6 million) and live gate ($72,198,500).
Following the lackluster fight, a big disappointment to the millions who shelled out $100 for the pay-per-view, Pacquiao said he had injured his shoulder during training camp and exacerbated it during the bout.
The week after the fight, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, operated on Pacquiao’s shoulder in Los Angeles after having diagnosed what he termed a “significant tear.” ElAttrache said at the time that Pacquiao could return to training in as soon as six months and be ready to fight in nine months to a year.
Arum said Pacquiao’s shoulder is healing on schedule.
“Manny said his shoulder is fine, but that is not good enough for me,” Arum said. “He’s supposed to have an MRI in Manila, I think later this week, and is supposed to have it sent to Dr. ElAttrache to examine it. But Manny said he feels good.”
Said Michael Koncz, Pacquiao’s adviser: “Manny is in the Philippines doing charity work and working in Congress. His shoulder is healing well, but he won’t fight again this year. The doctor says nothing this year. But Manny wants to go in late February or March.”
The reason for the specific time frame is that Pacquiao, who is a congressman for his province in the Philippines, is planning to run for his country’s senate and the election is May 9. Arum and Koncz said Pacquiao wants his return fight done by the second week of April at the latest so he can focus on his campaign.
“He’s not going to run for re-election to congress. Instead, he’s running for senate, and in the Philippines, the senate is a national election. So he wants to fight and then concentrate on the campaign. It’s very important to him,” Arum said. “I’ve spoken to Manny a couple of times [recently], and he is more interested in talking politics than boxing.”
As for an opponent, Arum said that while it ultimately will be Pacquiao’s decision, he has a five-man list of potential opponents. He said he will talk to their teams and then present the particulars of the deals to Pacquiao, who has won world titles in a record eight weight classes, later this year.
The list includes leading candidate Amir Khan, a former unified junior welterweight titlist and top welterweight contender, welterweight titleholder Kell Brook, junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, junior welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse and Juan Manuel Marquez, the Mexican great Pacquiao has waged four outstanding fights against, going 2-1-1 but finishing the fourth fight on his face as the result of a gargantuan sixth-round knockout in December 2012.
England’s Khan (31-3, 19 KOs), passed over multiple times by Mayweather, who continually mentioned him as a leading candidate only to fight somebody else, knows Pacquiao well. They sparred together when Khan was trained by Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime cornerman.
Arum said he hopes to make a deal with Khan.
“If Manny fights Khan, Khan will probably bring 3,000 or 4,000 people over from the U.K. for the fight,” Arum said.
Despite the fact that Khan’s adviser is Al Haymon, Arum’s bitter rival — whom he is suing for $100 million in an antitrust suit related to his creation of Premier Boxing Champions — Arum said he can make a deal with Khan and that he has been talking to the fighter’s father and uncle, who are closely involved in his career.
“We won’t deal with Haymon. We deal directly with family about fighting Manny Pacquiao,” said Arum, who was able to work with Haymon to make the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, although it was extremely difficult and before the lawsuit was filed.
Crawford (26-0, 18 KOs), the 2014 fighter of the year, from Omaha, Nebraska, would have to defeat Dierry Jean in a junior welterweight title defense Oct. 24. Matthysse (37-3, 34 KOs), a knockout artist from Argentina, would have to defeat Viktor Postol to win a vacant junior welterweight world title Oct. 3. Brook (35-0, 24 KOs), of England, would have to take care of business in a title defense against Diego Chaves on Oct. 24.
And then there is Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs), the 42-year-old Mexican legend, who has not fought since winning a unanimous decision against Mike Alvarado in May 2014. Marquez has been sidelined by a knee injury and contemplated retirement.
He has said that he was satisfied having knocked out Pacquiao in the only decisive outcome of their four-fight series and was not particularly interested in a fifth fight with his greatest rival. However, Arum said he will at least talk to Marquez promoter Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions to gauge his interest in continuing the series in a fight that would be worth more money than any other Marquez could make.
“We want to know for sure the status of Juan Manuel Marquez before we make any decisions,” Arum said. “Fernando is meeting with him to see what he wants to do. His knee appears to be 100 percent. Fernando told me he sparred a few rounds recently to test it out. Marquez would be the most lucrative fight, and Manny would be happy to fight him again.”
Two of Pacquiao’s past four fights — against Chris Algieri (2014) and Brandon Rios (2013) — took place in Macau, where Arum had a significant deal with the Venetian Macao. The other two took place in Las Vegas. Arum said Las Vegas also will be the site of the 2016 return.
“I like the United States. What are we schlepping around the word for,” Arum said. “We had great deals in Macau before, but you lose so much of the [American] pay-per-view going there [because of the time difference].”
Arum said he has had offers to do a Pacquiao fight in the Middle East, in a location such as Dubai, but “those deals are always built on sand, as they say. We have plenty of interest in Las Vegas.”
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