SAN DIEGO, Calif., July 13, 2017 – Few athletes earn the right to be called ‘legendary.’ In boxing, former eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines is one of them.
Fans have what might be their final opportunity to see Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) in the ring when the 39-year-old faces Lucas “La Machina” Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) of Argentina. Pacquiao is looking for his 60th win at welterweight. The bout takes place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It will air on the ESPN+ streaming platform at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m PT. A free seven-day trial is available. A month subscription costs $4.99, and you can pay $50 for the entire year.
Pacquiao returns to the ring after a year-long layoff
When boxing fans last saw Pacquiao, who is also an elected Senator in his home country, he suffered a shocking decision loss against lightly regarded Australian Jeff Horn. Many observers believed Pacquiao had done just enough to win, though it was close. Since then, Horn handed the belt he won from Pacquiao over to Terence Crawford.
In the fight, Pacquiao looked like a 38-year-old version of himself. At times he showed glimpses of the old PacMan, but his footwork was off and his fearsome punching power seemed diminished. Pacquiao looked his age, and he struggled. The Pacquiao of five years ago would have beat Horn, but it’s impossible to turn back the clock.
Trainer Freddie Roach said prior to the fight Pacquiao should retire if he lost. But Pacquiao said he wasn’t going anywhere. It turned out he was going to Malaysia, where the Fighting Senator will take on the hard hitting Matthysse who will fight just his second bout at welterweight. Why Malaysia? There remains a rabid fan base in Asia who will fill the seats at any venue featuring Pacquiao; and more important, his earnings are beyond the reach of the IRS, to which he owes a significant amount of money.
A full house showed up for the weigh-in at approximately 10 p.m. ET on Friday in the U.S, with thousands watching online. Pacquiao weighed in at 146 even; Matthysse at 146.7 pounds. We officially have a fight.
Pacquiao also went forward without his longtime trainer, Roach. They parted ways, and Pacquiao is essentially training himself, although his longtime associate Buboy Fernandez is playing this role. It is Pacquiao’s first fight without Roach in 34 fights. He is also working with Nonito Donaire, Senior.
Hard-hitting Matthysse relishes the challenge
Matthysse lost a difficult stoppage to Viktor Postol in 2015. He returned at welterweight, stopping Emmanuel Taylor in 2017, and knocking out Tewa Kiram of Thailand with two snapping jabs in the eighth round of their bout in January. It was an uninspired, messy fight until Matthysse delivered the knockout. At the time, Matthysse said he wanted to face Pacquiao, but no one believed the hard-hitting 35 yeear old would get the chance. But here we are, with a version of the WBA World Welterweight Title on the line.
More than four million people watched the Pacquiao vs. Horn fight a year ago, the most for a fight on cable TV since 2006. Even half this number represents a huge audience for the new ESPN+ streaming service. The viewer demographics were especially high among coveted younger viewers between 18 and 34. ESPN doesn’t report its streaming numbeers publicly, but rest assured we’ll find out if it’s a big success.
Due to the location of the fight and due to multiple problems with the venue and the financing, it has been far from a sure thing. It has lacked mainstream promotion, athough ESPN and Top Rank are trying to make up for lost time. If you’re watching ESPN in the 24 hours leading up to the fight, you won’t be able to miss the pitch (which I’m hearing as I am writing this during SportCenter on Friday).
Pacquiao is coming off a year long layoff, the longest of his career. Time is not on the side of any boxer at this point of their career. Pacquiao has scored knockdowns in recent fights and did come close to stopping Horn, but he isn’t a power threat.
Matthysse still possesses serious power and he’ll try and put it to use. “My two fists are my strongest assets as a fighter,” says Matthysse. “I always prepare for 12 rounds, but I’m always hoping to finish the fight by knockout.” Matthyssee says he plants to be aggressive in the biggest fight of his career. “This is my biggest fight, because Manny Pacquiao is a legend.”
Prediction for Pacquiao vs. Matthysse
Even a diminished version of Pacquiao has the skills to deliver a victory, and he’s saying all the right things about his approach and confidence. “I have never predicted the outcome of any of my fights, but this training camp is special for many reasons.” Pacquiao called himself motivated, hungry, and happy. “I am excited to show the world a new Manny Pacquiao,” said the longtime champ.
Matthysse’s challenge will be to find the target against Pacquiao, and look carefully for opportunities to land a counterpunch if Pacquiao gets careless (see Marquez, Juan Manuel). Pacquiao would be smart to use his superior speed and footwork to Matthysse even at 39 year old. Pacquiao needs to be busy and accurate. He isn’t likely to drop Matthysse, but he can win a smart decision as long as he fights through every single round out of 12 without a mistake.
If Pacquiao can win a decision, he needs to call it a career. Here’s hoping all the people he trusts and who care about Manny Pacquiao give him that good advice.
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.
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