Manny Pacquiao comes Full Circle: Pacquiao-Matthysse Preview
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: July 10, 2018
This weekend former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) will make his return to the ring. The Filipino Senator will step inside the ring with WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) in Malaysia in a fight that will be televised on the ESPN+ app. In 2018, Pacquiao’s fights no longer cause waves. People are aware that he is still around, but his impact is not what it used to be.
At 39 years of age in the twilight of his boxing career, the fight with Matthysse will be one of the last of Pacquiao’s career whether he wins or loses. In many respects, the fight with Matthysse has brought Pacquiao back to where he started. While longtime Pacquiao promoter Top Rank will be involved in the promotion of Pacquiao-Matthysse, they have taken a back seat to Golden Boy and the Filipino’s own promotional group, MP Promotions. In addition to Top Rank having a lesser role, longtime trainer of Pacquiao Freddie Roach has been replaced by one of Pacquiao’s friends and closest confidants, Buboy Fernandez.
For years, Pacquiao has put boxing behind his political career. The changes to Pacquiao’s team will show their effect on the night of the fight. Last July, Pacquiao faced Australia’s Jeff Horn in Australia and lost a controversial decision. While there were more people that felt Pacquiao deserved the decision it was more evident than ever that he was no longer the ‘Pac-Man.’ Just a few years earlier, Pacquiao would have likely stopped Horn. Simply put whether it’s his age or lack of proper preparation, Pacquiao is not the whirlwind he was in his prime or even the fighter he was in 2014 or 2012.
The loss to Horn was the catalyst for Pacquiao to make changes to his team. Matthysse as an opponent for what could be Pacquiao’s final appearance in the squared circle is almost perfect. In his last fight, Matthysse won the first world title of his career when he won the ‘regular WBA welterweight title after stopping Thai fighter, Tewa Kiram. On paper, Pacquiao’s advantages in experience and speed make him the favorite over the Argentinean. However, Matthysse will be the hardest puncher the Filipino has faced since Juan Manuel Marquez stopped him in 2012.
The difference between what this fight means to Matthysse versus Pacquiao is night and day. For Matthysse this fight is the most significant of his career. For the former eight-division champion it could be just another day in the office of a long career that has now spanned 23 years.
In 2001, Pacquiao made his debut in the United States on an Oscar De La Hoya undercard. That day Pacquiao dominated South Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba to win the IBF 122-pound title. The initial shock and surprise of Pacquiao’s performance against Ledwaba put the boxing world on notice. From there, Pacquiao went into a form of superstardom that only a handful of pugilists have experienced. Pacquiao could be leaving the boxing game the same way he first got noticed should he dominate Matthysse.
Against Matthysse, Pacquiao’s career has come full circle. The fight with Matthysse will either have fans wishing for a retirement announcement or leave fans in remembrance of why they became so captivated by the Filipino in the first place.
(Featured Photo: Team Pacquiao)