Almost a full decade since his last knockout win, Manny Pacquiao reminded everyone on Sunday that he’s not quite done yet.
Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs), who turns 40 in December, quieted suspicion that he had slipped dangerously past his prime by showing flashes of his old self in a one-sided dismantling of Argentine brawler Lucas Matthysse at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
With a partisan crowd cheering him on, the Filipino icon and senator by day relied on speed and awkward angles to score his first stoppage since he finished Miguel Cotto in 2009 at the peak of his fighting prime.
Pacquiao, the only boxer in history to win titles in eight divisions, also claimed Matthysse’s WBA regular welterweight title while full champion Keith Thurman continues to sit idle with injuries.
“Thank God for this victory,” Pacquiao said. “This is all dedicated to God and all the Filipino people. Thank you to our country and our president for watching this fight.”
Rumors of Pacquiao’s demise, which were fueled in part by his puzzling decision to cut ties with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, proved far too premature as longtime cornerman Buboy Fernandes and strength coach Justin Fortune took over the lead. Unlike his disputed decision loss to Jeff Horn last July in their title bout, Pacquiao looked focused and prepared.
“We did a good job and my team in training,” Pacquiao said. “We were not pushing hard like we did when we were very young. We controlled ourselves in the training but it’s heavy training. Thanks to all of my team for working hard in this fight.”
Although the headlines will rightfully speak of Pacquiao’s rejuvenation, the 35-year-old Matthysse offered next to nothing in terms of resistance. Matthysse (39-5, 36 KOs) looked slow and disinterested as he struggled throughout dealing with Pacquiao’s speed and footwork.
Not only did Matthysse’s reputation for being a vicious power puncher fail to materialize in this fight, which was contested on Sunday morning in Asia, the stigma which has followed him as a bit of a frontrunner became true. Matthysse once again proved unable to adjust on the elite level after falling behind and was knocked down three times in total, including Round 5 when he voluntarily took a knee after a pair of jabs to the temple.
“Matthysse has the power also so we were taking care in the ring with hands up all the time and doing my best,” Pacquiao said. “I’m surprised [he was knocked down three times] because Matthysse is a very tough opponent. I knocked him down and that’s a bonus for being focused and patient and in the fight and working hard in training.”
Pacquiao outlanded Matthysse 344 to 246, according to CompuBox, and connected on 44 percent of his power shots. Along with working in body shots on lead left hands to slow Matthysse down, Pacquiao repeatedly caught him leaning forward with uppercuts that split the guard.
Matthysse was floored with an uppercut in Round 3. After taking a knee and looking as if he might quit two rounds later, Matthysse was dropped for the final time in Round 7 on a left uppercut. After sitting up to one knee, Matthysse spit out his mouthpiece, which summoned referee Kenny Bayless to wave off the fight at 2:43 of the round.
Asked after the fight what was the most difficult part of fighting Pacquiao, Matthysse replied, “To fight Manny Pacquiao. He’s a great fighter and a great champion.”
Despite the loss, Matthysse made it clear he was not considering retirement.
“Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” Matthysse said. “Today was my turn to lose and I lost to a great fighter and a great legend in Manny Pacquiao. [I’m going to] take a rest, take a break. I worked really hard and I want to go back home to my family. This is part of boxing that you win some and lose some. Today was my turn to lose but nothing more.”
Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, had talked in recent weeks of his plan to match Pacquiao against pound-for-pound king and lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko later this year. The pay-per-view bout, which would likely come at a catchweight, could catapult Lomachenko to stardom in the same way that Pacquiao did by beating an aging Oscar De La Hoya in 2008.
Despite the talk of the future, Pacquiao wasn’t willing to budge when asked which opponent he wanted next.
“That’s another story and another discussion,” Pacquiao said. “Right now, I’m happy to go back to my country in the Philippines and to celebrate the victory and, of course, doing my job as a public servant.
“We are planned [to fight again in 2018]. We have not decided yet. Right now my focus is to go back to my country and, of course, relax.”
Source: Brian Campbell