Thirty-nine year old future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao returned to the ring with a dominant seven round stoppage of longtime top Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse on Sunday morning (Saturday night in the United States) at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In what was the first fight for the former eight-division world champion since losing the WBO Welterweight world championship via what some felt was a controversial twelve round unanimous decision to then undefeated number one contender Jeff Horn in July of last year in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia, Pacquiao showed no signs of a fighter that is in decline.
From the opening bell Pacquiao used angles and hand speed to keep Matthysse on the defensive and unable to be effective. The fight was fought primarily in the middle of the ring where Pacquiao would be able to dictate the combat. There were times throughout the bout that Pacquiao showed glimpses of the swarming, aggressive style that was his trademark throughout much of his career. Matthysse simply could not find a way to neutralize Pacquiao’s movement and nullify his attack.
Pacquiao scored a knockdown of Matthysse in round three with a left uppercut that sent Matthysse to the canvas. This will be followed by a second knockdown in round five as a result of a short right hook that seemed to connect on Matthysse’s temple causing him to take a knee. The end of the fight came in round seven when Pacquiao scored a third and final knockdown of Matthysse with another left uppercut that sent Matthysse down and forced Referee Kenny Bayless to stop the fight. Official time of the stoppage was 2:43 of round seven.
Manny Pacquiao advances to 60-7-2, with 39 Knockouts. Lucas Matthysse falls to 39-5, with 36 Knockouts.
The victory for Pacquiao, his sixtieth in sixty-nine professional fights, secured him interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Welterweight ratings, which makes him the mandatory challenger for undefeated WBA world champion Keith Thurman. An obvious an interesting question coming out of this fight is what exactly will the thirty-nine year old Pacquiao do next?
Although Pacquiao has been through many wars throughout his career and was coming off of a loss to Jeff Horn, he showed no negative effects, despite his advanced age. The stoppage win over Matthysse for Pacquiao, his first since stopping future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto in November 2009 should be an indicator that he is not at the end of his career just yet. What that means for any fighter ranging from the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division up to the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight division is a longtime marquee draw for the sport is still around and viable.
For now, Pacquiao appears content to remain in the 147lb. Welterweight division where he has spent much of the last decade of his career. It should not be overlooked that Pacquiao’s fight against Lucas Matthysse was his first without longtime trainer Freddie Roach. While it did not appear to have any effect on him not having Roach in his corner for the first time in many years, one subject that some fans have chosen to be critical of Pacquiao about is his ongoing career as a politician in his native Philippines where he currently serves as a senator. The questions of whether his duties as a politician would eventually have a negative impact on his Boxing career have been asked before.
This observer is however, reminded of a statement that Freddie Roach made in the weeks leading up to Pacquiao’s landmark victory over Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008, where Roach was critical of De La Hoya for not being as active as a fighter as Roach believed he should have been as De La Hoya was also involved in the sport heavily as a promoter before he retired after Pacquiao defeated him. Roach said that it was his opinion that a fighter could not maintain his sharpness only competing on a part-time basis.
While no one has suggested that one could say Manny Pacquiao is in a similar position as De La Hoya was, it is important to remember that he will be forty years old in January 2019. Although many modern-day fighters have competed well beyond the age of forty, I believe that it will be to Pacquiao’s best interest as a fighter if he can stay active and compete on a regular basis.
As many of the top fighters of Pacquiao’s era are now either retired or approaching retirement, he will be facing fighters who are likely younger than he is and as such might be viewed as having a theoretical advantage over him. In some ways, it is not a position that Pacquiao is unfamiliar being in as he spent much of the last decade facing fighters who were naturally bigger than him, but the obvious difference is Pacquiao was younger throughout much of that time.
In terms of the Welterweight division, I believe Pacquiao would be a viable option for any world champion in the division not only due to his new designation as having interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s ratings, but also the name recognition clout that he brings to the table. With WBA champion Keith Thurman presently inactive due to injuries, an interesting possibility for Pacquiao’s next fight could come in the form of potential fights with either undefeated current WBO world champion Terence Crawford or undefeated IBF world champion Errol Spence. It may simply come down to which fight can be made and when that will determine who Pacquiao faces next.
The illustrious career of future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao has had many chapters chronicling the highs and lows of a great fighter. The Boxing world eagerly awaits the next chapter.
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