ALL signs point to Manny Pacquiao traveling to Kuala Lumpur in June to swap mitts with reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight (147 lbs.) champion Lucas Matthysse of Argentina.
Boxing fans are already salivating at such a pairing because of the firepower Matthysse brings to the ring. Nicknamed ‘La Maquina’ (The Machine), Matthysse parades a spine-tingling record of 39-4 with 36 knockouts.
However, there is more to the fight than what the headlines readily blare. Here are five points to consider as Pacquiao braces for a showdown with Argentina’s vaunted punching machine.
1. Matthysse is legit – if he shows up in shape.
Before Matthysse, Pacquiao tossed around the names Danny Garcia and Mike Alvarado. Former welterweight king Garcia would have been the best choice, but eventual pick Matthysse is definitely way better than the faded Alvarado.
Matthysse is an aggressive puncher who packs a wallop in his right hand. Matthysse-Pacquiao is like two wrecking balls on a head-on collision. It is going to be a demolition derby, especially if Matthysse shows up in shape.
There’s the caveat: Matthysse’s conditioning. He is already 35 years old and there are persistent issues concerning the health of his left eye which he injured when he suffered a shocking 10th-round knockout defeat to Viktor Postol in October 2015. When Matthysse fell on one knee after taking a right hand from Postol, many thought he was not seriously hurt. As it turned out, Matthysse had broken an orbital bone around his left eye and decided to take the 10 count to avoid aggravating the injury.
Matthysse was inactive in 2016 and has fought only twice in the last two years. Last January 27, he looked a bit chunky and struggled to find an offensive rhythm before finally nailing Thai Tewa Kiram in the ninth round to win the vacant WBA welterweight title.
2. Pacquiao gets to fight for another world title.
With a record eight division titles, Pacquiao is accustomed to having a belt wrapped around his waist.
After losing his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown to Jeff Horn, Pacquiao is getting a chance to win the WBA’s ‘regular’ version of the crown opposite Matthysse.
Believe it or not, Pacquiao has never won a WBA title. The last time Pacquiao fought for a WBA crown was in 2004,when he faced nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez for the combined IBF and WBA featherweight crowns. The fight ended in a draw after 12 rounds.
Pacquiao winning the WBA welterweight title will give him some leverage if he decides to pursue the winner of the Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford fight in April for the WBO crown.
3. Will Freddie Roach still be in the corner?
Rumors are swirling that longtime trainer Freddie Roach is out and that ‘somebody from the inside’ will get 'promoted’ to train Pacquiao. The Matthysse fight is critical and definitely a trainer of Roach’s expertise will come in handy.
The relationship between Roach and Pacquiao has been rocky for some time. Apparently, it hit the nadir when Roach mused after the loss to Horn that Pacquiao is better off retiring. Early this month, Roach claimed that he has not heard anything from his once prized ward.
4. Will Malaysia live up as the fight host?
Before Pacquiao, the only high-profile boxer to fight in Malaysia was Muhammad Ali, who defended his heavyweight crown with a 15-round unanimous decision over Joe Bugner at the Merdeka Stadium in June 1975.
It took 42 years before pro boxing made a comeback in Malaysia. On January 7, 2017, Malaysian national Muhammad Farkhan won the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council light heavyweight crown by stopping Japhet Kaseba at the Johor International Convention Center in Johore Bahru, Malaysia. But dig this: owing to lack of boxing activity in Malaysia, Farkhan has relocated to the Philippines and is in fact booked to fight this weekend in Mandaluyong City.
On July 9, 2017, Filipino Carlo ‘The Ferocious’ Magali headlined a 10-fight card at the Mid Valley Exhibition Center in Kuala Lumpur. Magali, a native of Bohol, successfully defended his Orient Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) junior lightweight crown with a 10th-round knockout of Sandeep Balhara.
Pacquiao-Matthysse is an action-packed fight that will command good pay-per-view numbers and dollars if held in the United States. One can only hope that technical blunders will not be a dime a dozen when the fight is staged in Malaysia. No less than Top Rank Promoter head honcho Bob Arum is wondering if there is an investor in Malaysia who is capable of shelling out real money to stage such a big fight.
Note that Pacquiao’s camp has been burned several times. Last year, a mega offer to fight Amir Khan in the Middle East turned out be nothing but desert heat.
5. Will Bob Arum gatecrash the party?
Speaking of Bob Arum, you have to wonder if he is comfortable at being eased out of the negotiations for the Pacquiao-Matthysse bout.
Remember several years ago, when Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions tried to surreptitiously sneak the then ultra-hot Pacquiao out of Arum’s Top Rank camp? All hell broke loose and Pacquiao ended up returning to Top Rank. The Harvard Law School-bred Arum is not one to ‘sleep on his rights.’
If sketchy reports are to be believed, Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Matthysse, will be joining forces with Pacquiao’s MP Promotions to make the fight. Expect Arum to raise a howl anytime now. Arum’s 86-year-old legs may no longer be that fresh, but he is not one to be left in the party holding an empty bag.
Last we heard, Arum is already questioning the proposed fight and is mulling on lining up another foe for Pacquiao.
Oh boy, here we go again.