In his 69th appearance in 23 years as a prizefighter, Pacquiao will take on an Argentine champion named Lucas Matthysse in a 12-round bout for the WBA welterweight championship before an expected big Pinoy audience that includes President Duterte and many members of his Cabinet.
“I’m ready for him. We had a great training camp,” said Pacquiao on the eve of the bout set at the Axiata Arena in the heart of the booming Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
This is one bout which means the whole world for the Filipino ring hero, who is expected to finally hang up his gloves if he loses to Matthysse who’s four years his junior.
If he wins, Pacquiao most likely go for another rich fight against the finest welterweight available at the moment. Yes, including the amazing Terrence Crawford.
There have been calls for him to retire following his shock loss to Australian Jeff Horn for the WBO championship last year, but Pacquiao didn’t listen, saying he can still deliver, he can still take on anyone at anytime.
So here’s Manny climbing the ring again, confident the Pacquiao of old will appear at fight time against the heavily-tattooed Argentine brawler who knocks out opponents as easy as brushing his teeth.
Just listen to his conditioning coach, Justine Fortune.
“He looks like the old Pacquiao. His metabolism is ridiculous. He’s a freak,” said the former heavyweight boxer of his ward. “I’m confident he’s going to win this one”.
Both fighters were looking good and feeling fine during the weigh-in at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre where they both easily made the 147-pound limit.
The only man to have won world titles in eight weight divisions and regarded as one of the greatest of his time, Pacquiao tipped the scales at 146 pounds to the rousing cheers of Filipino fans.
Matthysse came in the heavier man, only just under the limit at 146.7 pounds, as the official weigh-in was held in mildly chaotic scenes that saw hundreds of Pinoy fans tried to push forward towards the stage to get a glimpse of the two fighters, especially Pacquiao.
As the fighters left following the obligatory toe-to-toe poses and a quick handshake, fans rushed in to take selfies, prompting calls to clear the stage as organizers feared it could collapse before order was restored.
But victory for Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) would see him become a five-time welterweight world champion and extend his legendary status and his life in the ring beyond his 40th birthday in December.
Pacquiao is going for his 60th victory since turning pro in 1995, but despite winning 38 of his first 47 fights by knockout, he has not stopped an opponent in nine years.
Matthysse has finished 36 of his 39 wins inside the distance and took the vacant WBA belt after an eighth-round stoppage of Thailand’s Teerachai Sithmorseng in January.
“He is a great champion but he still hasn’t faced the ‘The Machine’, Matthysse told a pre-fight conference the other day.”If he decides to retire after I beat him then that is his decision. I am here to defend my title.”
This is the biggest bout to be staged here since the great Muhammad Ali outpointed Joe Bugner in 1975, in the same year he stopped arch-rival Joe Frazier in the 14th round of a classic bout called “Thrilla in Manila”.