(KUALA LUMPOR, MALAYSIA) It ain't the “Thrilla in Manila”, but it just might be a “Massacre in Malaysia.
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao fights for an 11th world championship in front of 1000's of adoring fans inside of Axiata Arena, LIVE on ESPN+ (11:30PM/ET), in what will feel like a fight from his beloved Philippines nearby.
Privately, Pacquiao truly wanted tonight's fight to be a final showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez, but in many ways, gets Chapter V via Lucas Matthysse.
Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya, co-promoter along with MP Promotions, is becoming a young and savvy Bob Arum; he's controlling the joystick for “The Machine” under the belief that Jeff Horn wore Pacquiao out, even as he preserved Mattyhsse with a hapless Tewa Kiram serving of tomato soup.
For all that's been made of a Manny Pacquiao in antiquity, a refurbished “Pac-Man” (59-7-2, 38KOs) with dimming lights is still enough to outduel and gobble Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36KOs) like a “regular” WBA welterweight champion. If legends have one great fight left in them, then this is it for Pacquiao. I think this will be whatever Pacquiao/Marquez V was supposed to be; the difference being Matthysse isn't as dynamic in clever explosion as Marquez IV was– even as Pacquiao has turned into a seasoned mongoose version of that “Dynamita” from the southpaw position. Matthysse will be baited and countered with lethal straight lefts.
Pac's like this video game version of himself now, the one where the levels get faster and things become more frantic because the risk is higher; that's not the one he's on with in Matthysse. That one would put him on a level where he's being hunted by IBF welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr or WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford and it'd be “GAME OVER”. In Matthysse, Manny's on a board (or ring canvas) where he still controls the pace with superior speed, movement and a short burst of firepower in spots.
Of the many special qualities that made Pacquiao a solid A-fighter and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world was his otherworldly conditioning. Flashback to Matthysse against “Super” Zab Judah in November 2010. He's being outboxed by a talented southpaw in Judah who only had ordinary conditioning. What bothered Pacquiao to the point of obsession after the Horn fight, was that his core conditioning wasn't there beyond 10 rounds against a man in his absolute prime. He needed the rest. With a partisan crowd, and 10 weeks of training camp agony endured for another shot at glory, this will feel like an old school 15 round affair until it's not. Pacquiao does actually want a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko — where he'd most likely run into what De La Hoya did in the form of himself a decade ago. For now, he get something from Matthysse he hasn't had in nearly a decade: A TKO. Pacquiao in a hateful eight.