SAN DIEGO, Calif., July 14, 2018 – Manny Pacquiao can once again call himself a champion. The 39-year-old boxing legend from the Philippines showed flashes of the speed and hunger that made him an eight-division champion, defeating Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in seven rounds. Pacquiao is now the WBA Welterweight Champion.
Fighting in front of a full house of 15,000 cheering fans in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) scored his 60th victory by taking apart a seemingly timid Matthysse with speed and surprising power. At age 35, Matthysse seemed the far older, far more faded fighter. He didn’t put up even a fraction of the challenge of the lightly regarded Jeff Horn, who defeated Pacquiao a year ago in Australia.
Pacquiao: Confident, aggressive, fast and powerful
While no one would mistake this version of Manny Pacquiao for the one that destroyed Oscar De La Hoya, he was confident, aggressive, and landed an impressive array of punches. He knocked Matthysse down three times in the fight, twice with head snapping uppercuts starting with a left uppercut in the third round. It seemed to be a flash knockdown that didn’t especially hurt Matthysse.
Pacquiao laid down a foundation of more body work, causing a sluggish, slow Matthysse to focus so much on protecting himself, his punch output slowed to a trickle. Pacquiao used the angles of attack which have always frustrated opponents to move in with more uppercuts and straight left hands. One of those shots caught Matthysse on the temple in the fifth round, dropping him a second time.
As Pacquiao delivered more of the same to the delight of the crowd, it was time to start contemplating whether Matthysse’s corner should start thinking seriously how far they wanted to let the fight go.
First stoppage win for Pacquiao since 2009
It was the delivery of a final uppercut in the seventh round that caused Matthysse to take a knee, spitting out his mouthpiece. Matthysse knew he could use the knockdown as cover for calling it a night. He realized he was too far down on the cards to come back. It was an honestly made decision, though disappointing. Referee Kenny Bayliss made it official by waving the fight off at 2:43 of the seventh round.
After the loss, a gracious Matthysse gave the credit to Pacquiao. ““He’s a great fighter and a great champion,” Matthysse said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose – today was my turn to lose, but I lost against a great champion and a legend.”
Pacquiao said he knew from the very first round he could beat Matthysse. “I knew he couldn’t handle my punches, my power. I think every punch I threw, he got hurt.”
“Matthysse is a tough opponent,” said Pacquiao. “I was focused in the fight and worked hard in training. I’m surprised, because Matthyssee is a tough opponent. So that’s a bonus for being focused, patient, and working hard in training … We did a good job, my team, we did a good job in training.” This was Pacquiao’s first bout in 17 years without longtime trainer Freddie Roach.
Pacquiao said he didn’t feel his age at all. “I don’t look 39. If you saw me training for this fight, I’m like 28, 29. My team wanted me to stop training. But I kept on pushing, pushing.”
Should Manny Pacquiao press on, or retire from the ring?
The inevitable question: what’s next for Pacquiao? “That’s another story and another discussion. Right now I’m happy to go back to my country and celebrate the victory with my countrymen, and do my job in the Senate,” where Pacquiao is an elected Senator in the Philippines Senate. He said he’s undecided about another fight.
It would be the best possible outcome for Pacquiao to take a page out of Peyton Manning’s book, and retire on this high note. But who are we kidding? Pacquiao vowed he was retiring in 2016 after his win over Jessie Vargas. No one believed him then, no matter how much he claimed it was true. Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum won’t be able to resist putting him back in the ring at least once and maybe twice more.
Whether Pacquiao’s loss to Horn and his year-long layoff created a new fire to train and rededicate himself, or whether he picked the perfect opponent in a fast fading Matthysse, it’s something boxing experts will debate for days and weeks to come. Credit both for a fight that delivered some surprises and some thrills, and fans really can’t ask a lot more of their sports heroes. It would be refreshing if Manny Pacquiao could leave us with this final ring memory intact and unsullied.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2017 by Falcon Valley Group