This weekend boxing’s only eight division titlist Manny Pacquiao 59-7-2 (38) will fight WBA title holder Lucas Matthysse 39-4 (36) for the chance to be slaughtered by WBO title holder Terence Crawford later this year. The bout takes place at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both Pacquiao and Matthysse are easy to root for because they always give a good effort and their styles make for action-packed fights. Pacquiao has accomplished much more than Matthysse and earned a ton more money over his career so a win does a lot more for Matthysse.
Pacquiao is 9-4 (0) since scoring his signature stoppage win nine years ago against Miguel Cotto. In regards to his setbacks, he was knocked out in a brutal fashion by Juan Manuel Marquez, he was soundly out-boxed by Floyd Mayweather in another and in his last defeat to Jeff Horn, although some thought he deserved the decision, he took a lot of big punches and was manhandled during more than a few rounds of the fight. The Horn bout was supposed to be a free ride against a limited fighter against whom he might even score his first stoppage since Cotto. In the ninth round he had Horn pretty shook but couldn’t come close to finishing the tough Aussie. This has been a common theme for Manny over the last nine years. Instead of meeting Horn in a rematch, which Manny declined, Horn made his second title defense against Crawford and was taken apart and stopped in the ninth round.
Matthysse has fought some of the best of his era and has only been stopped once. And that was in his last defeat when he was counted out in the 10th round of his bout against Viktor Postol in October of 2015 for the vacant WBC super-lightweight title. Postol’s win over Matthysse was considered an upset and more strikingly it ended with one punch, a short right to the face that dropped Lucas who took the full count on one knee. Later it was revealed that he suffered a broken orbital bone during the fight. After that, Matthysse took 17 months off and came back as a welterweight and scored two consecutive stoppage wins over Emmanuel Taylor and previously undefeated Tewa Kiram to earn his shot at Pacquiao.
On paper Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao versus Lucas “the Machine” Matthysse has the potential to be an all-out war for as long as it lasts. The only burden watching them go at it is the prospect of what the winner will be force fed, and that’s the opportunity to be eaten up by Crawford.
Pacquiao will be fighting for the first time in roughly 15 years without Freddie Roach in his corner. Instead he’s been in camp with Justin Fortune, Nonoy Neri and Buboy Fernandez. However, that shouldn’t be much of a factor because Pacquiao already knows how to fight – the question for him, at 39, is how much of it and for how long can he still do it? Also, Pacquiao hasn’t fought in slightly over a year and could be rusty. Granted, conditioning has never been an issue for Manny, and he still has some semblance of his punch, having dropped two of his last three opponents, Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas, and he did have Horn buzzed pretty good once or twice during his last fight. The bigger problem for Pacquiao has been his defense. He’s never been tough to find, but his work rate has been on the downward trajectory for years and that opens him up more for his opponents to get off against him.
Matthysse will be fighting for the third time under the tutelage of trainer Joel Diaz. Lucas was known for being a dynamite puncher at 140, but hasn’t been tested against any elite welterweights. He’s a skilled boxer with two-handed power; the question for him is whether he can he deliver it against Pacquiao. At one time that would’ve been tough because Pacquiao was a quick southpaw who threw imaginative combinations with power from unpredictable angles. His speed and activity usually nullified his opponents reach and length, something he was not successful doing against the taller and stronger Horn. Due to Manny being more upright and less fluid stylistically recently, Matthysse will probably find him with his Sunday best during the course of the bout – and how Pacquiao reacts will be something to observe closely.
The difference between Pacquiao fighting Matthysse and fighting Horn is that Manny will be able to out-box and out-speed Matthysse and is more capable of stopping him. Horn’s chin and strength enabled him to survive Pacquiao’s quicker hands and offensive bursts. If he connects as clean on Matthysse as he did on Horn, Lucas will not finish the fight. Conversely, Pacquiao is more likely to get caught and stopped by Matthysse than he was by Horn. Matthysse is a bigger puncher than Horn and his delivery system is more sophisticated and consistent. And that’s the hook for the fight, the chance that Pacquiao could look spectacular winning it or be stopped in a memorable fashion.
The fight will air on ESPN+ and that’s smart. It will be seen by many and because it could end in a dramatic knockout it will help launch the winner against Crawford. But the realization is that the winner will be shellacked by Crawford inside the distance. Neither Pacquiao nor Matthysse have the necessary tools to bother Crawford, let alone beat him. Actually, the fighter coming out on top between Pacquiao and Matthysse will go into the unification clash with Crawford knowing that it will be his last big money fight!
A knockout by either shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pacquiao fighting Crawford is the much bigger fight. Couple that with him being quicker and better and he can win by decision or by stoppage, which I don’t think applies to Matthysse. Therefore, Pacquiao has to be given the nod if forced to pick the winner.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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