Pacquiao Ready to Test Himself in Exhibition against Thai Legend

January 3, 2024
3 months

Manny Pacquiao is hoping to shake off the retirement rust quickly. By the time Pacquiao takes on Thai boxing legend Buakaw Banchamek during the first quarter of 2024, he will have been away from the boxing ring for nearly three years. A strong performance against Banchamek is something Pacquiao hopes will lead to a productive new year.

Pacquiao is already set to have another boxing match with former rival Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in 2024. Despite boxing being a sport that leads to a lot of brain trauma and can lead to long-term health issues down the road, many former fighters have participated in exhibitions to earn a paycheck. Some of the exhibitions that have taken place have been reckless, as some fighters have difficulty dialing things back once their adrenaline gets going.

However, there is a certain nostalgia value that these events create. When legends decide to come back for one last go, it’s hard not to be curious about how they will stack up with former rivals or younger fighters.

Pacquiao Not Unfamiliar with Exhibition Fights

While Jake Paul and Logan Paul have brought a lot of more prominent names in combat sports into exhibition fights over the past few years, these types of bouts have been happening for a long time. Pacquiao had an exhibition fight in 2002 that also sought attention.

But unlike Paul and others, Pacquiao didn’t have a large following on social media and took the fight with former world champion Jesus Salud in Honolulu to introduce himself to a Hawaiian audience. Pacquiao, then 25, was able to pick up a three-round decision over the former champion. Pacquiao’s star would grow well beyond Hawaii.

Pacquiao, a native of the Philippines, is the only eight-division champion in boxing history. During Pacquiao’s career, he captured 12 world titles. Pacquiao retired as a professional following a loss to Yordenis Ugás on Aug. 21, 2021, for the WBA (Super) welterweight title. He finished his career at age 42 and had a 62-8 record with 39 knockouts.

Pacquiao was known throughout his career for having tremendous punching power. That style made him one of the most marketable boxers in the world. 

Pacquiao’s Campaign for President Falls Flat

While Pacquiao was still an active boxer, he got extremely involved in the political scene of his native Philippines. It wasn’t a situation where he was only interested in pursuing the president straight away. Pacquiao was initially a member of the House of Representatives, then was elected as a senator in 2016.

Once in the senate, Pacquiao put a lot of time in as the twilight of his boxing career slowly waned. After Pacquiao retired from the ring in 2021, he announced he would be running for President of the Philippines. Pacquiao wasn’t able to drum up much support, however.

He finished third in the election, behind Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo. Pacquiao finished with 6.81 percent of the vote, receiving 3.6 million votes. Marcos won the election with 31 million votes and 58.77 percent overall.

Buakaw Agrees to Special Rules Bout

Buakaw isn’t a traditional boxer like Pacquiao. The Thailand native made his mark competing in Muay Thai and kickboxing. When the two men face each other in April at Impact Arena in Bangkok, there will be no kicks allowed.

Instead, the two men will fight at a 155-pound catchweight. There will be six three-minute rounds with two minutes off in between each round. There will be an incentive for both men to win the fight. In addition to the agreed-upon purse, the winner will receive a bonus of $290,000.

Buakaw Has Been Incredibly Active

Buakaw, 41, is still an active fighter who takes on new challenges routinely. While Pacquiao has transitioned to a political career, Buakaw still has a full fight schedule. In 2023, Buakaw fought five times. During Buakaw’s last fight, he fought Saenchai in a bare-knuckle Muay Thai bout in November.

Buakaw has been incredibly active since he turned professional at the age of 17. He has a career record of 224-24-14 in Muay Thai. Buakaw had a dominant run in K-1 in early 2002. He was the K-1 World MAX Champion in 2004 and 2006 while finishing as runner-up in 2005.

Buakaw was the Omnoi Stadium featherweight champion in 2001 and the lightweight champion in 2002 in Muay Thai. Amazingly, he also tried his hand at soccer. He was a forward for RBAC F.C., which is part of the Regional League Division 2.

Exhibition Fights Have Become Popular

Boxing is a sport that doesn’t lend itself to a long career. In a time where people are more aware than ever of the consequences of repeated head trauma, it doesn’t seem wise to allow people to fight late into their 40s and 50s. However, big names like Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., and Evander Holyfield have all laced the gloves back up and stepped into the ring in the past few years.

The most embarrassing of all of those was Holyfield. No one should have let him fight. He stepped in on less than two weeks’ notice to fight Vitor Belfort on Sept. 11, 2021, at 58. Unsurprisingly, Belfort battered Holyfield before the fight was stopped 1 minute 49 seconds in.

The exhibition fights don’t threaten the legitimacy of the sport. Many young, exciting fighters are pursuing glory and trying to add to their legacies. However, the attention retired stars receive for participating in these fights can be distracting. It’s not always clear what the rules are and how hard each man tries to win the fight.

Pacquiao and Buakaw will be interesting for both men. With a different rule set than usual, each man will need to make adjustments to be able to try to win the bonus money. But there is no doubt it will be a battle of legends many people will be interested to watch.

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