Is "The Machine" the Perfect Opponent for Manny Pacquiao?
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: January 31, 2018
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The rumors surrounding the return of former eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) have been growing. The Filipino Senator is rumored to be returning on the same card as his former conqueror, Australia’s Jeff Horn. The Australian could be facing former undisputed 140-pound champion, Terence Crawford. Horn won the WBO welterweight (147) championship from Pacquiao last July in a highly controversial decision. A rematch between Pacquiao and Horn was thought to take place in November. However, Pacquiao’s duties as a Senator have gradually become a priority over his boxing career.
The fight with Horn was the most visually obvious that Pacquiao may have spread himself too thin. Many observers had Pacquiao winning the fight, and he even came close to stopping the Australian in the ninth round. For years, fans have witnessed the gradual decline of the “Pac-Man,” and with boxing taking a backseat to senatorial duties, it seems that the Filipino’s career is in its twilight. However, Pacquiao has decided to follow boxing tradition and continue his career long after his prime.
Pacquiao at 39 years old still has plenty of options awaiting him when he returns to the squared circle. In late 2017, Pacquiao stated that he would be willing to face MMA (mixed martial arts) superstar, Conor McGregor. Thankfully, this proposed fight seemed to have more bark than bite. Afterward, there were talks of a bout with current WBO 130-pound champion, Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs). A match between Lomachenko and Pacquiao has similarities to Pacquiao’s fight with Oscar De La Hoya at the end of 2008 as a ‘passing of the torch’ match up. The difference would be in the details.
For almost a decade, with a few catchweight bouts in the mix, Pacquiao has decided to compete in the welterweight division. Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach have stated that he could still make the weight to compete at lightweight (135) and super lightweight (140). It is possible that the right fight for the right amount of money has not surfaced to make Pacquiao move down in weight. Pacquiao for years has had fractured and fragmented training camps where boxing is secondary and making weight may be an inconvenience at this point. Lomachenko-Pacquiao could be an exciting bout between two elite pugilists on different stages of their career. However, Lomachenko still has unfinished business at 130 and 135 pounds.
If Pacquiao does return on the same card as Crawford-Horn, Colorado native Mike Alvarado has been brought up as a possible opponent. Alvarado is best known for his trilogy with Brandon Rios and has made a comeback over the last two years facing limited opposition. In many ways Alvarado is a good opponent for Pacquiao stylistically, giving the Filipino a chance to leave the sport with another scintillating performance. This past weekend another possible opponent for Pacquiao emerged.
Last weekend at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Argentinean puncher Lucas “The Machine” Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) won the ‘regular’ version of the WBA welterweight title. Matthysse won the title in a rather pedestrian bout against Thailand’s Tewa Kiram. The fight was filled with more boos from the audience than punches from the fighters. Matthysse, mercifully, put an end to the fight in the eighth round. After the victory, Matthysse made it clear whom he wants to face next.
While boxing still has ongoing promotional cold wars going on, it is a little less frigid between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. Both companies currently provide content to ESPN, but Golden Boy is the primary content provider for premium cable network HBO. Last year, Top Rank took all of their content to ESPN taking HBO staples like Lomachenko and Crawford with them. Top Rank’s relationship with HBO may only play a minor factor in making a Pacquiao-Matthysse bout with the Filipino being the clear ‘A-side’ in the equation.
Much like Pacquiao against Horn, “The Machine” looked like an outdated version of himself against Kiram. He is no longer the 2010-2013 version of “The Machine” that was scoring knockout after knockout in the 140-pound division. Even if Matthysse were still in his prime, Pacquiao would still be favored to beat him. Now that Matthysse has a title, it makes him more valuable and a perfect opponent for Pacquiao to face in his return to the ring.
Matthysse would be the biggest puncher Pacquiao has faced since he was knocked out cold by the now-retired Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. As shown throughout the entirety of his career, Matthysse has the power to change a fight at any moment. Pacquiao at this stage of his career would still have a significant advantage in hand speed. At 5’6, the Argentinean is not as big as Horn, leaving the Senator with more of a chance to score another long-awaited stoppage.
A storyline exists between the fighters trainers. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach trained Viktor Postol in 2015 against Matthysse where the Ukrainian scored a tenth round stoppage. Matthysse’s current trainer Joel Diaz has faced Pacquiao and Roach before when he trained the now retired former two-division champion Timothy Bradley. Diaz and Matthysse may come into a fight against Pacquiao with a chip on their shoulders, leading to a potentially entertaining bout.
Pacquiao-Matthysse is not a fight that will sell millions of pay-per-views (PPV), but in comparison to the reception given to the Filipino’s last two bouts against Horn and Jessie Vargas, it would be more than acceptable. The “Pac-Man” against Matthysse could win another world title and retire as a world champion should he choose to leave the sport afterward. If Pacquiao were to choose to continue his career, he will have set up an opportunity to face unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman for the ‘super’ version of the WBA welterweight title. In a more likely scenario, Pacquiao could face the Crawford-Horn winner in a unification match up for the WBA and WBO welterweight titles.
Some fights need the right timing to take place. 2018 may be the right time to make Pacquiao-Matthysse. For those who wanted to see Pacquiao against Marcos Maidana or Ruslan Provodnikov, a match against a puncher like Matthysse is arguably just as good. Instead of seeing Pacquiao fight in a showcase bout against someone like Alvarado or Matthysse face an unknown contender at welterweight, it would be a missed opportunity if Pacquiao-Matthysse is not made.
(Feature Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)