By Paul Maon
The big question this Saturday night, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is how much does the dead cert, future hall of famer, Manny Pacquiao have left? No one would have begrudged him exiting stage right and retiring following a points loss in his May 2015 mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather. After all, he is an eight weight World Champion (2 weight classes are lineal and Ring Magazine Belt wins) and owes the sport little. Instead, in time-honoured tradition, the once buzz saw like whirling dervish, has become increasingly more human and easier to hit with each passing contest and has carried on regardless.
His most recent outing could hold the key to where he is currently at. In September 2017 he travelled to Brisbane, Australia to defend his WBO Welterweight Title against the unbeaten, but lightly regarded Jeff Horn. This was an opponent Pacquaio was expected to beat handsomely, but instead was hurried and hustled out of the fight by the inspired Aussie. To illustrate what should have been a gulf in class if Pacquiao was fighting anywhere near to his apex, in Horn’s second defence last month, he was hammered by Terence Crawford in a one-sided dominant stoppage loss.
The worry about this is that Crawford v Pacquiao is a match promoter Bob Arum is keen to make amongst others. I for one wouldn’t be comfortable seeing this, and even more uncomfortable in Pacquaio facing another of Boxing’s current hottest properties in the Ukrainian three weight World Champion, Vasyl Lomachenko.
All this talk though is academic if the Filipino cannot get past his opponent at the Axiata Arena this weekend. Pacquaio challenges for the WBA Regular Welterweight Title against the Argentine knockout artist, Lucas Matthysse. This is the first defence of a belt that Matthysse won via an eighth-round stoppage victory over the previously unbeaten Tewa Kiram In January in California.
ESPN televise in America, while BoxNation picks up the rights here in the UK. This is my preview.
Lucas Matthysse (39-4, KO36) v Manny Pacquaio (59-7-2, KO38) – 12 Rounds For The WBA Welterweight Title
Manny Pacquiao has surely already etched his Hall of Fame credentials in stone after a stellar career, with World Titles in an astonishing eight different weight classes. The mercurial Filipino began his professional adventure way back in 1995 in the lower weight classes. After eleven straight wins, Rustico Torrecampo knocked him out in the third round of a ten rounder in Manila. Two years later, Pacquiao captured his first World Title, the WBC Flyweight Title, travelling to Thailand to knock out Chatchai Sasakul in eight rounds. After two further wins, Pacquiao then failed to make weight for a defence against Medgoen Singsarat in Thailand and was again stopped in three rounds, this time to a body shot. Six straight wins at Super Bantamweight in his home country followed before he took a career-defining opportunity. On two weeks’ notice, Pacquiao travelled to Las Vegas to challenge for the IBF Super Bantamweight Title against Lehlo Ledwaba on the Oscar De La Hoya v Javier Castillejo undercard. Manny stole the show, stopping the South African in the sixth round, after knocking him down three times during the contest. In an attempt to unify the division, Pacquaio was held to a technical draw by Agopito Sanchez, the WBO Champion, after he suffered a bad cut. Four stoppage victories followed before Pacquiao defeated the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera in a masterclass, stopping the Mexican great in eleven rounds when well ahead. This was truly lift off for the Filipino.
Next came an assault on the Featherweight division, but he ran into a man who he would share four fights with, the Mexican warrior, and at the time WBA and IBF Featherweight Champion, Juan Manuel Marquez. In their first meeting in May 2004, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the opening round, but Marquez finished the fight like a Champion, snatching a draw. After a homecoming win against Fahsan “3K” Battery, Pacquiao was dealt another loss in the first of another rivalry, this time with Erik Morales. Morales won 115-113 on all three cards in a classic. Ten months later the two met again, this time Pacquiao turned the tables and brutally stopped Morales in ten rounds. Another ten months later the duo fought for a third time. Pacquiao drew a line emphatically under the rivalry by knocking Morales out inside three rounds in Vegas, after dropping him three times.
After knocking out Jorge Solis, Marco Antonio Barrera was then unanimously defeated on points in a rematch, setting Pacquiao up for a crack at the WBC Super Featherweight Title held by Marquez. Another tight tussle saw Pacquiao triumph via a split decision. He immediately stepped up to Lightweight, and relieved David Diaz of his WBC Title, stopping him in nine one-sided rounds. Another Hall of fame test was passed in his very next fight, agreeing to fight Oscar De La Hoya in a fight many wrote Pacquiao off in as being too small. De La Hoya weighed 145lbs to Pacquiao’s career highest of 142. It was a mismatch, but to everyone’s surprise, Pacquiao whipped De La Hoya for eight rounds, forcing the great to retire on his stool at the end of the round. A pound for pound star was truly born.
This was further enhanced as Pacquiao knocked Ricky Hatton out cold inside two rounds to lift the IBO Light Welterweight Title, and he then wrested the WBO Welterweight Title from Miguel Cotto in what was one of his last great performances, stopping the Puerto Rican in the last round. The WBC Title at Super Welterweight was next, Pacquiao humiliated the bully that was Antonio Margarito, punishing him for the whole twelve rounds before winning on points widely. He then moved back down to Welter to beat Shane Mosley (UD) and Juan Manuel Marquez (Split Decision) before Timothy Bradley controversially outscored him in June 2012. In his next fight, he was finally beaten by his great rival when Marquez knocked him out for the full count in six rounds. Brandon Rios was unanimously outpointed in Macau, China before he regained the WBO Welterweight Title by outscoring Bradley in a rematch. After hammering Chris Algieri back in China, the fight the world had all been waiting for was set. Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao.
The event and build up was huge, the fight, however, was a letdown. Mayweather took over from the fourth onwards to comfortably win on points dealing Pacquiao his sixth career loss. He rebounded from that May 2015 night, and beat Tim Bradley for a second time in April 2016, before, looking a bit more like his old self in beating Jesse Vargas on the scorecards to pick up the WBO Welterweight Title once again on November 16th. Then came the surprising reverse to Jeff Horn in Australia, and here we are in July 2018 with Pacquiao staring an exit from the big time in the face.
To try to combat this, the all-conquering partnership with trainer Freddie Roach is no more. Roach claims he hasn’t spoken with Manny since the Horn fight. Pacquiao is now being trained by lifelong friend and longtime assistant trainer, “Buboy” Hernandez. In spite of this Pacquiao hasn’t committed to a fight beyond Matthysse because of his senatorial duties in the Philippines. When reached by the Los Angeles Times, Pacquiao said if he does compete again beyond Saturday’s contest, he would open to reuniting with Roach. Roach has stated that he would be more than willing to reunite with Pacquiao.
Firstly though, Manny must come through what will be a difficult test in Malaysia.
Lucas Matthysse is the epitome of the term “fan friendly”. A pro since June 2004. After 26 fights unbeaten (one no contest) Mathysse finally stepped up in class in February 2010, stopping the former WBA Super Lightweight Champion, Vivian Harris in four rounds in Mexico City. Two fights later, however, Matthysse would taste defeat for the first time when another former World Champion, New York’s Zab Judah outscored him by one point on two cards. Matthysse won by the same margin on the third and the scoring was controversial, with Judah controlling the early action, but Matthysse rallying to drop Judah in the tenth and dominating the later rounds. Lucas returned to stop the evergreen DeMarcus Corley, before another split decision loss, this time over ten rounds against Devon Alexander.
Matthysse then embarked on a decent six-fight winning run, defeating decent names in Humberto Soto (RTD 5), Ajose Olusegun (TKO10) and Lamont Peterson (TKO3). This set up a first World Title tilt, challenging Danny Garcia for his WBA and WBC Super Lightweight Titles. It was to be a unanimous points win for Garcia, although Lucas was always in the contest, losing eventually by two points (twice) and four points.
Knockout victories over John Molina Junior and Roberto Ortiz were backed up with a gruelling majority decision win over war horse Ruslan Provodnikov to set up another Title opportunity. Viktor Postol would prove too strong in Matthysse’s attempt at the WBC Super Lightweight Title, stopping the Argentine for the first time in his professional career in ten rounds. Since that October 2015 night, Matthysse has boxed twice. A move up to Welterweight saw Emmanuel Taylor stopped in five rounds in Las Vegas in May 2017, before he finally captured World honours by knocking out the previously 38-0 Thai, Tewa Kiram in eight rounds to capture the WBA Title he defends this weekend.
This could be a lively affair, with Matthysse surely intent on setting a high pace and putting constant pressure on the ageing 39-year-old Filipino. I still feel that this should be Pacquiao’s kind of fight, rather than the technical stop-start affair with Jeff Horn. My pick is for the Pac-Man to triumph on the cards in a crowd pleaser of a fight. Where he will go from there is anyone’s guess.