Eight division world champion and Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38KOs) looks to jump up and down and all over WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse (39-4-1, 36KOs) before turning him into a mattress with busted springs. The legendary trainer Freddie Roach is out and new trainer/old friend Buboy Fernandez is in, complete with a few new coins to insert into the rewired game of “Pac-Man”. Beyond wondering whether the graphics hold up in 2018, will it work?
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“Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! Ba-BoOm!”, unloads a stand-up comedian free Pacquiao at the Wild Card Gym on Friday. Absorbing the weight is the rotund and robust Fernandez, conspicuous in his inability to look anything like Roach holding the mitts. Comparing the two of them is like drawing parallels between the sex appeal of General Santos City and Hollywood, which on the surface makes no sense. Compare a shopworn and regular ass WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse, 35, with “super” champion Keith “One-Time” Thurman on paper. A no-brainer right? Wrong. Thurman isn’t a gimme over a Matthysse his team would not have matched him up against, and “La Maquina” possesses a right hand strike harder than the one Juan Manuel Marquez unleashed to electrocute Pacquiao in December 2012. Jimmy Kimmel won’t be calling.
The Wild Card Gym in Hollywood (like Roach) has lost its mojo, but the one in General Santos City is buzzing on this day; needing police and extra security to corral loyal Pactards and Pacturds acting as if ‘Wapakman’ will be facing something close to “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather in two weeks. He’s not. But that doesn’t mean Manny’s not training like an all-time great, former pound-for-pound best fighter in the world with something to prove. Last year against Jeff Horn, Roach allowed the rogue Aussie and his team (which included a clueless referee, Mark Nelson) to assault Pacquiao with a form of Rugby mistaken for effective aggression. Still, “Pac-Man” showed up big in round 9, and almost got away with a TKO despite Roach. Even a semi-vintage Pacquiao honks Horn in the 10th, but the 38-year-old combat veteran did not have elite stamina in the championship rounds and lost a heated Split Decision.
Determined to atone for a title fight loss more irritating than personal, Pacquiao jettisoned Roach, in favor of a brutal 10-week camp lead by Buboy, who’s been involved with every significant training camp during Pac’s historic championship run. Word out of the Philippines is that the former congressman turned senator has been seriously laying down the law in sparring two weeks ahead of their clash on July 15 at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia. But a wary Buboy remains cautiously optimistic. “Right now, he’s 85% and I want the remaining 15% during the fight so he’ll be 100%,” said Fernandez, who watched Pacquiao leave his best moments in training for Jeff Horn. Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, co-promoter of the event along with MP Promotions, grimly believes Matthssye…
..will totally reveal Pacquiao’s best days are behind him rather violently. “For me, every legend has his end and I think that this fight with Matthysse may be the end of Pacquiao,” De La Hoya said to ESPN Deportes with a tight promoter cap on.
When Pacquiao does see the end, it won’t be against Matthysse, judging by his last performance over a green, stiff and vanilla Tewa Kiram. The Argentina KO artist has never stopped an A-fighter at his best and is now a B- fighter with power. The gameplan being devised by Buboy looks like a more aggressive, remodeled version of the one used against Brandon Rios in November 2013. Hence, the concern over peaking too soon. “I have something planned for his last sparring session for his own good,” said Fernandez to reporters on hand, in reference to Pac’s last sparring session on July 9. Buboy wasn’t saying exactly what that was, but one thing’s for sure— “Manny Knows” these ain’t the days of pitching the Nike swoosh.