This past weekend Lucas Matthysse 39-4 (36) fought for the second time in six months, stopping Tewa Kiram 38-1 (28) in the eighth round after having him down twice. Kiram entered the bout undefeated but other than a solid jab he didn’t have much to offer. The win over Kiram earned Matthysse, 35, the vacant WBA (Regular) welterweight belt. Keith Thurman is the holder of the actual WBA title belt.
Since turning pro in 2004, Matthysse has fought mostly as a junior welterweight. During his time at 140 he faced many of the upper-tier fighters in the division, three of whom — Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, and Danny Garcia — now campaign at 147. Alexander and Garcia formerly held a major belt in the division and Peterson just fought for the IBF version and was stopped by Errol Spence who became the only fighter other than Matthysse who can boast of having stopped Lamont Peterson.
At one time as a junior welterweight, Matthysse was feared and dangerous. A close review of his record reveals that he only lost to the best — Zab Judah, Alexander, and Garcia, all by decision – until October of 2015 when he was stopped in the 10th round by undefeated Viktor Postol for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title. Losing to Postol isn’t held against him since the only fighter to have defeated Viktor in 30 pro bouts is Terence Crawford who, in my opinion, is the baddest man to hold the 140-pound title since Aaron Pryor. After losing to Postol, Matthysse didn’t fight for more than 18 months. He’s now fought twice as a welterweight, winning both bouts by stoppage, and now holds a fringe title.
After beating Kiram, Matthysse was asked who he would like to fight next. He mentioned two names, Manny Pacquiao 59-7-2 (38) and Danny Garcia 33-1 (19).
Wanting Garcia makes sense because when Lucas lost to him it was considered an upset. Today Garcia is a player at welterweight although lacking a title and based on how Matthysse looked rusty and a little slow against Kiram, I’d now consider it an upset if he were to beat Garcia. However, I don’t think Matthysse brought up Pacquiao’s name just by chance. Until he mentioned Pacquiao’s name, there was never a thought regarding the two of them fighting….that’s why I think Lucas threw Manny’s name out there to stir the pot. Call me a sucker for being one of the first to fall for it, but I think the fight makes perfect dollars and sense for both of them.
Everyone knows Pacquiao is going to fight again, not to mention that at 39 he’s probably in the last year of his career where he can still make millions fighting a title holder or big name opponent. We know he won’t go near Errol Spence and that fighting Keith Thurman wouldn’t command enough money to warrant the risk. I think a fight with Terence Crawford is inevitable and if Pacquiao scored a credible win before they met it could be for a lot more money. The problem is against whom?
That’s where Matthysse comes in. He obviously hasn’t regained his past form and he’s not the same killer puncher at 147 that he was at 140. But he has a style that suits Pacquiao because he likes to mix it up, he’s not too fast, and he’s easy to hit. No doubt Manny should be able to land first with his Sunday shots and, if worse comes to worst, his wheels are good enough to pick his spots and out-box Matthysse. On top of that, Matthysse has enough cachet now to where Manny wouldn’t be too excoriated for fighting a smallish, older welterweight. And if he beats him he’ll have more juice when it comes to fighting his promoter Bob Arum’s star fighter Terence Crawford in his retirement bout.
That’s the conundrum facing Manny Pacquiao. He’s not quite through fighting, but he’s now vulnerable to the names most fans would pay to see him fight. His first priority is making money in either a super fight or an ESPN fight with a known fighter that would cultivate interest, but if an ESPN fight it has to be an opponent he figures he can beat. Taking on Jeff Horn was a bad decision (although nobody said it before the fight) and it set him back. Granted, most observers felt he won that bout in July of last year, but it was more competitive than it should’ve been against a tough but limited opponent. Pacquiao is to the point where it’s very tough to find the right fight/fights to close out his career while trying to maximize his purse.
I’m not certain Pacquiao would beat Matthysse. It’s not out of the realm that he could get knocked out in a devastating fashion. But with Matthysse being older and rusty and never being a good boxer and now having picked up some momentum following his reemergence, I think there’s a chance it might happen. I don’t believe Matthysse said Pacquaio’s name at center ring out of the blue. I think there’s a good chance there’s been talk about them fighting behind the scene.
Only time will tell, but if Pacquiao-Matthysse aired on ESPN everybody would watch it and there would probably be fireworks for as long as it lasted.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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