SATURDAY (July 14) sees Manny Pacquiao vs Lucas Matthysse, the return of first ballot Hall of Famer and Filipino icon against hard punching Argentinian Matthysse. This is a match up that would have had fight fans around the world salivating years ago. At this moment in time however the fight has flown under the radar with a somewhat lacklustre build up. This is indicative of how much the ‘Pacman’ stock has plummeted over the years. The fact that the fight is not highly anticipated and has not garnered much interest from the boxing fraternity shouldn’t take away from the fact that we could potentially have a war of epic proportions on our hands, should the fuse be lit when these two combatants square off.
Manny Pacquiao comes into this fight amid a less than emphatic run of form. 3-2 in his last five fights and only 6-4 in his last 10, Pacquiao is a fighter that has changed more than evolved. Now approaching his 40th birthday he is no longer the swashbuckling southpaw destroyer, and also appears to be removed from his evolved boxer-puncher sniper style. What remains it seems is a battle worn, former great who lacks the aggression that made him such a formidable force. After the now legendary knockout defeat to rival Juan Manuel Marquez it was inevitable and roundly encouraged that Pacquiao use a more cautious approach to his fighting style. While fighters can normally preserve their run at boxing’s top table with a more measured approach, it seems to have taken away from Pacquiao, blunted his once razor-sharp edge almost. During Pacquiao’s defeat to Jeff Horn it was the Filipino’s inability or reluctance to step up the action when the Aussie was hurt that eventually saw him drop a contentious decision. The Pacman of old would no doubt have gone 0-100 to get Horn out of there. Against such a powerful and rugged brawler like Matthysse, an inability or reluctance to engage in warfare or step on the gas when needed could prove catastrophic.
There was a time in boxing when “La Machina” was hailed as a new Pacquiao. A relentless, two-fisted, power-punching brawler that relished combat. He went on a tear through the 140lbs division until he eventually ran into a wall he couldn’t just bulldoze in Danny Garcia. From the Danny Garcia unification onwards, he has been trying to climb back to lofty position he once held in boxing’s esteem. A couple of absolute wars with John Molina Jnr and Ruslan Provodnikov showed that the Machine had not quite lost the thirst for blood. Matthysse was well and truly on the cusp of returning to his pre-Garcia fame until he ran into Viktor Postol in a highly anticipated world title fight. That bizarre evening saw Matthysse convincedly outboxed by Postol until retiring due to what appeared like an eye injury. The aggression, the relentlessness, any ideas in general all seemed to elude Matthysse. He has since returned with a pair of convincing knockout victories, but this will be the first time since he has entered the ring with a fighter in the true elite echelon again. One thing that cannot be denied however is that Matthysse carries truly elite, world class power. The type of power that could be kryptonite for an ageing, gun shy veteran in Pacquiao.
A wildcard in this contest – yes, pun intended! – is that Manny Pacquiao is no longer based at the Wildcard gym in Hollywood California. He has recently announced his split with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. For a long period of time Roach and Pacquiao have been synonymous with each other. How will Pacquiao fare without his long-time trainer in the corner? He is now being trained by friend and long-time assistant Buboy Fernandez, but should the fight turn into a real battle, how much will the experienced and calming voice of Roach be missed in the corner? Given the opponent and his approach to fighting, this could be a very real requirement.
The raw ingredients are there in this one for a tremendous fight. The ageing legend, the power punching brawler, one last run at the top table in boxing. Who has more left? More hunger, more desire, more of their former self?!The intrigue for me in this contest is huge. Set your Sky boxes to record guys, you could end up missing a war for the recent ages!
Prediction – Pacquiao to win on points in a bloody, epic battle.