The camp of WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn will put random drug testing on the table as they continue negotiations for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, with the second instalment increasingly likely to be held in in November.
After weeks of contemplation following his shock loss to the Queenslander at Suncorp Stadium in early July, the eight-division world champion looks certain to take up the option of a rematch, Top Rank’s Bob Arum telling Fairfax Media on Thursday that it was now just dates and venues holding up any announcement.
Horn returns to his Brisbane gym on Monday to begin training after a break following his victory over the Filipino great, who many thought would retire after losing a bloody and controversial unanimous decision through a dozen brutal rounds.
Horn’s trainer, Glenn Rushton, wasn’t entirely comfortable with the doping protocols for the first bout, which consisted of a standard post-bout urine sample. Neither fighter has ever returned a positive test.
But Rushton said they want to leave nothing to chance in the return, saying he would press the option of random pre-fight testing with promoters Duco Events before any deal was finalised. Drug testing has been an issue for Pacquiao in the past, most notably before his super fight with Floyd Mayweather. Even as recently as last month Mayweather was cagey when discussing Pacquiao and the notion of performance-enhancing drugs.
Rushton said they felt they would beat Pacquiao even more convincingly the second time, but he wants to ensure a level playing field for both men when they return to the ring for the sequel.
“It is something I’d bring up because what I don’t want is for them to go ‘The only way I can win this fight is if we are trying to get an unfair advantage’,” Rushton said. “I would certainly be very mindful of that. We want the big fights, but we want a level playing field.
“I’m very happy with any drug testing. I signed Jeff up for the WBC-VADA clean boxing program, which means you can be tested at any time. As an Olympian, we’re used to this sort of drug testing. We’ve had to do this many times. He’s clean as a whistle.
After hopes initially faded, with Horn calling out fighters such as Errol Spence on social media, the momentum for the rematch has grown in recent days. Arum has been speaking candidly and believes it will happen, with the fight likely to be Pacquiao’s final appearance in the ring as he juggles sport and his life as a Philippines senator.
Sydney and Melbourne are both in the running, even though the Queensland government has first and final rights of refusal. There had been reports of it taking place at Suncorp Stadium again, with giant air conditioners wheeled in to combat the heat, but Arum looks to have already ruled out any such move.
“We need to figure out where the fight will be,” Arum told ESPN. “The problem is we can’t have it outdoors again because of the weather [in Brisbane]. November is the summer there and it’s brutal to do it outdoors. We can’t do it. Even in July, which is their winter, it was pretty hot outdoors.”
Etihad Stadium remains a possibility, while Arum has been sweet-talked into a possible bout in Sydney by actor Nicole Kidman.
Rushton said he and Horn, who stands to make $2 million from the rematch, would be ready and waiting. “If we thought it was a fluke, we would be dodging it. But we’re saying let’s do it again, next time we’ll make it more convincing.