By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
ON SUNDAY, July 15, Filipino boxing superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao makes his return in the ring as he takes on Argentinian Lucas Matthysse for the latter’s World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight title in a fight dubbed “Fight of Champions” at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
But unlike the Pacman’s fights in the past, not many are completely sold on the Matthysse bout, and that is not without reason, a local combat sports analyst said.
“If this bout took place at least five or six years ago, it would have earned the credence of a legitimate in-ring demolition derby because back in their heydays, these two were hard-hitting ring beasts. Unfortunately, both men are past their respective primes,” said fight analyst Nissi Icasiano when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts on the upcoming fight.
“In his bout against Jeff Horn [in July last year], Pacquiao wasn’t anywhere near the fighter he’d been in his prime. Instead of facing Horn, Chris Algieri, Jessie Vargas and Timothy Bradley for the third time, Pacquiao should have taken the fight with Matthysse many years ago when the Argentinian fighter was still highly thought of by the American boxing fans instead of waiting for him to start looking over-the-hill,” he added.
Mr. Icasiano went on to say that Mr. Matthysse is in the same boat with “clouds of doubt” hovering.
“Matthysse is a world champion at 147 pounds, but only because the WBA ranked him highly and then let him fight an obscure pugilist from Thailand named Tewa Kiram. 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,” he said.
“Moreover, Matthysse was inactive in 2016 and has fought only twice in the last two years. This past January, he looked a bit chunky and struggled to find an offensive rhythm before finally nailing Kiram in the ninth round to win the regular WBA welterweight title,” the analyst added.
Mr. Icasiano said that at this stage of 39-year-old Pacquiao’s storied career it is hard to determine his motivation for it could be a lot of things.
But he surmised that one could be looking for a perfect send-off for him as he rides into the sunset.
“You have to question Pacquiao’s motivation at this point of his career. There are a lot of things that you could think of as to why he is still lacing up his eight-ounce gloves, but I would like to think that he wants a decent exit from the sport of boxing. He hasn’t held a WBA title in his 23-year career, and beating a game slugger like Matthysse will be a good send-off for Manny Pacquiao,” he said.
Adding, “However, it is a dangerous situation for boxing’s only eight-division world champion. History shows that when legendary greats push the envelope too far in this business, the sport has a way of being very harsh. This is a sport that doesn’t smile upon ageing legends.”
As for Mr. Matthysse, the fight is a platform for him to stay “relevant,” Mr. Icasiano said.
“For Matthysse, I think he wants one or two more bouts after his bout against Pacquiao. It’s not a good idea at this point, but he seeks a date with champions in the division such as Errol Spence, Jr., Keith Thurman and Terence Crawford,” said the analyst.
Asked who he thinks would win the fight, Mr. Icasiano said the outcome is very much open and the fight itself presents an interesting dynamic.
“On paper, Pacquiao’s volume punching, footwork and speed should seal the deal against Matthysse. However, how Pacquiao performed against Horn last year is still my main concern. Pacquiao looked so old and past his prime even during his best moments. The age was there for all to see. Pacquiao made a mediocre fighter in Horn look good instead of exposing him the way he would be if he fought the better fighters in the welterweight division… It is possible that with his power diminishing for years, Pacquiao is more likely to rely on years of experience and his great technique if he feels he cannot match Matthysse’s power. Pacquiao still knows how to string together a good barrage,” he said.
“If Matthysse will show up on Sunday in shape with good conditioning, he is still a physical force as Pacquiao looked very depreciated a year ago when he fought Jeff Horn. The fact Pacquiao wasn’t able to outright dominate Horn, who was defeated last June in a stoppage loss to Terence Crawford, doesn’t bode well for his prospects against the hazardous Matthysse,” Mr. Icasiano added.
The Pacquiao-Matthysse fight is to be broadcast locally beginning at 10 a.m.
--This article was published in "BusinessWorld"--