Brian Norman (left) and Mario Barrios could end up facing Manny Pacquiao in his comeback fight this year.
Brian Norman (left) and Mario Barrios could end up facing Manny Pacquiao in his comeback fight this year. STEVE MARCUS and SARAH STIER/agence france-presse
BOXING

YOUNG GUNS

Nick Giongco

Manny Pacquiao actually has got two options as he gears up for an intriguing comeback.

Aside from Mario Barrios, also on the radar screen of promoters is Brian Norman.

Barrios is the interim World Boxing Council welterweight champion while Norman also holds the interim title in the World Boxing Organization (WBO).

Both are Americans and quite young.

Barrios is 29 and Norman is 23.

Pacquiao, who retired from the sport in 2021, is 45.

The proposed comeback is not being ruled out.

Even the leadership of the World Boxing Council (WBC) has openly supported Pacquiao’s planned resumption of his legendary career.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said “Pacquiao is a legendary boxer and no doubt he still has a chance to get in the ring,” World Boxing News said.

“He’s an elite fighter.”

Still, an official request for a fight under the WBC has yet to reach Sulaiman’s desk but given his encouraging words, there is no doubt the eight-division puncher will get one.

‘He’s an elite fighter.’

The Barrios matchup is being explored by Sean Gibbons, who heads the Pacquiao-owned MP Promotions.

The Norman showdown is said to be a project of another party based in the United States, something Pacquiao himself confirmed during an interview last Tuesday as he was about to do his afternoon workout at Forbes Park.

Barrios, from San Antonio, Texas, holds a 29-2 record with 18 knockouts and is being promoted by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC).

Norman, who has fought extensively in Mexico City, sports an immaculate 26-0 mark with 20 knockouts, and just recently became the interim WBO champion after knocking out Giovanni Santillan.

Norman, in contrast, is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.

Pacquiao, who has a scheduled three-round exhibition match in Japan next month, also used to fight under PBC and Top Rank.

“(The fight is) going to be in November or December,” said Pacquiao, adding that, like in his previous camps, he will spend the final weeks of training in Los Angeles.