imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Aging Pacquiao vs Mathysse

After Nonito Donaire’s recent bitter loss, all eyes have turned to Manny Pacquiao who is coming back next month.

July 15, Sunday, will be the next date with destiny for our aging Manny Pacquiao in Kuala Lumpur against 35-year old WBA welterweight champion Lucas Mathysse, one of the hardest punching fighters in boxing pound for pound.

At 39, Pacquiao enters this fight with a 59-7-2 record that includes 38 knockouts and he’s coming off with a stunning loss to Jeff Horn in July last year which most knowledgeable boxing fans say he was robbed by biased judges. Against Horn, Pacquiao landed double the amount of punches and at a much higher percentage and still lost. Pacquiao is now 39 years old, stands at 5’5” and has a 67-inch reach.

But what makes the Mathysse fight different this time is that there is no Freddie Roach to coach and train him as he’s been replaced by longtime friend Buboy Fernandez. At 39, one year shy of entering his 40s, Pacquiao still has the heart of a warrior and is well conditioned for a guy his age, but as to his speed and power, they remain questionable. His quickness and power have dropped, and it is evident that the monetary compensation drives him most to continue fighting despite the fact that age has caught up with him. In fact, he has not scored a knock out in the last 8 years and he has been overly precautious since he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth boxing edition.

For consolation, analysts say he still got the IQ to get the job done. Pacquiao threw 573 punches in his last fight and landed 32 percent of them, still a respectable figure. However, it goes without saying that Pacquiao is no longer the elite fighter he once was when he fought the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Antonio Margarito, Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricky Hatton.

In the Horn fight, Manny appeared sluggish. When he staggered Jeff Horn in Round 9, he failed miserably to finish him off. During his prime, Manny was considered as one of the best finishers to end the bout in KO, but gone were those killer instincts. In other words, he is not just getting old. He is already too old to fight in a world-class bout.

Was he right to contradict Freddie Roach’s advice that after the Horn fight, the only option left is to retire?

Old fighters who attempted to come back (obviously due to the money) failed miserably and ended their careers in shame. Then aging Muhammad Ali made a comeback but his career was ended by Larry Holmes. Mike Tyson, coming off from prison after serving a sentence for rape, came back and was knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas and Lenox Lewis of Britain.

Now, let’s take a look at Manny’s opponent, fellas.

My research says that Lucas Matthysse of Argentina enters this fight with a 39-4 record that includes 36 knockouts. Matthysse has won five of his last six fights, and he’s coming off a January win over Tewa Kiram.

Matthysse is another fighter who is also aging, but he’s fighting for the third time since May of last year and will defend his new WBA welterweight belt for the first time. Matthysse is 35 years old, stands at 5’6” and has a 69 inch reach. Matthysse, unlike Manny who is serving as a senator, is a pure full-time boxer who is known for his aggressive, come forward style, throws violent punches and has a one-punch knockout potential. In fact, 15 of Matthysse’s last 16 victories have ended in stoppages and that includes knocking out one of the better boxers in Thailand in the eighth round a couple months ago.

Matthysse doesn’t have the hand speed or the movement he may have had when he was younger, but power is usually the last thing to go with quality fighters and the Argentinian has proven times and time again he can punch and floor his opponents.

Analysts say Matthysse is the much stronger puncher and that’s scary given that it will take just one punch to end this thing.

Further researches reveal that Matthysse has made a lot of noise in his career. He distinguished himself at 140 with some big wins, including a KO over Lamont Peterson. A loss to Danny Garcia and later, a TKO loss to Postol, kept Matthysse from being truly elite. His failings aside, he has always been a ferocious puncher. And some of that old menace surfaced in his last fight with a televised KO over an unbeaten opponent in January.

An analyst says that the odds for this fight are very interesting, with Pacquiao only a -230 favorite as of press time. The obvious reasons for that are because he is getting old, has untold wear on his body, is coming off a loss, and is facing a fighter noted for his KO power. Granted, the Filipino legend’s tires are threadbare. But he should have gotten a close decision win over Horn in his last fight. In addition, Matthysse hasn’t thrived at a high level like this in quite some time. After he ran up the white flag against Viktor Postol in 2015, he has fought just twice—beating Emmanuel Taylor last year and unbeaten Tewa Kiram earlier this year.

However, Pacquiao still has above average movement, and that’s key given that he can control the ring, and pick his spots while dodging Matthysse’s best shots. Matthysse has also lost two of his last four fights that have seen at least the 10th round, which is a clear sign fatigue sets in and he’s no longer effective in later rounds. Pacquiao is also still able to take a punch and has that warrior mentality that can be the deciding factor in the last few rounds with the fight on the line. 

I’m the underdog in this fight,” Manny said.

The card, dubbed “Fight of Champions,” will take place at the Axiata Arena and will feature three other world-title bouts.

It will be another history for Malaysia after the great Muhammad Ali fought Joe Bugner in July 1975.

Will Manny win or will this be the fight to end his career?

Will it be go, go Manny or goodbye, Manny?

Let’s wait and see.

Meanwhile, keep punching until July 15, fellas. #