Manny Pacquiao has been one of the best boxers of his generation since his pro career began in 1995.
On Saturday, he will try to prove that he’s still at the top of his game when he defends his WBA welterweight title against Adrien Broner at the MGM Grand Garden.
While there has been speculation that a rematch with Floyd Mayweather could be on the horizon if he defeats Broner, Pacquiao, 40, is content embracing the task at hand as he approaches the twilight of his legendary career.
“This is a challenge because it is my first fight as a 40-year-old,” he said. “I have something to prove to everyone about what that means. Age is just a number. What matters is how you prepare and that you’re working hard.”
That’s something Pacquiao insists he still is doing despite his attention being pulled in different directions as an international superstar, businessman and a politician in his native Philippines.
“These days I don’t only train my body but also my mind,” he said. “I’m a Senator, so my mind is very busy. I also play chess regularly and read books to keep my mind sharp.”
His tongue, however, never will be as sharp as Broner’s. At Wednesday’s news conference, the former four-division world champion took aim at broadcaster Al Bernstein with a vicious and profane tirade before mocking a group of Asian reporters by insinuating they eat their pets.
It was a typical performance for Broner, who never has met a microphone he didn’t view as a tool to generate controversy.
What hasn’t been typical is Broner’s performances in the ring. After starting his career 27-0, he’s 6-3-1 in his past 10 fights, losing to high-profile opponents Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia.
The 29-year-old says that will change Saturday.
“Manny Pacquiao has done a lot for the sport,” Broner said. “I’m going to beat him up and have a drink with him afterward. I grew up in boxing, and I know what’s going on. It’s a business, but don’t get it twisted, I’m going to dominate and win.”
Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) insists he’s not fighting just to pay off his debts, as has been reported, but instead still enjoys the competition and proving people wrong.
The naysayers were particularly vocal after he lost a decision to unheralded Jeff Horn in Australia in July 2017.
“People writing me off after that fight was good for me,” said Pacquiao, who bounced back with a knockout of Lucas Matthysse in July. “I’m not mad at anyone who thought that. It just became a challenge and a test to me of whether or not I could still show my best.”
Pacquiao will be fighting in the United States for the first time since he defeated Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in 2016.
“I feel so blessed and happy because of the excitement around this fight,” Pacquiao said. “It’s come from the fans here in the U.S. and media all over the world. I want to go out there and make all the people happy.”
Broner wants to make sure that doesn’t happen. He’ll probably have something to say either way.
Who: Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner
What: For Pacquiao’s WBA welterweight title
When: 3:05 p.m. Saturday; main card begins at 6
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Records: Pacquiao 60-7-2, 39 KOs; Broner 33-3-1, 24 KOs
TV: Showtime PPV
Line: Pacquiao -310