By Keith Idec
Justin Fortune fully expects Lucas Matthysse to try to rough up Manny Pacquiao in their welterweight title fight Saturday night.
That strategy enabled Jeff Horn to upset Pacquiao last year. Fortune figures Matthysse must try to get physical with Pacquiao, too, “because he’s not fast enough to box Manny.”
Fortune, Pacquiao’s assistant trainer, is confident, though, that veteran referee Kenny Bayless won’t afford Matthysse opportunities to bend boxing’s rules in their 12-round, 147-pound championship match at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Nevada’s Bayless is considered a no-nonsense referee who’s quick to warn fighters for questionable tactics.
“The referee is Kenny Bayless,” Fortune said Tuesday, according to The Philippine Star. “He’s straight, no bullsh*t. He’s the real deal. He won’t allow all that head-butting.”
Bayless has officiated nine Pacquiao fights since January 2006, including the Filipino legend’s biggest bout – a unanimous-decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May 2015.
Pacquiao and his handlers were displeased with how another American referee, Mark Nelson, handled his controversial loss to Horn last July 2 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
Horn manhandled Pacquiao at times during their 12-round fight for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title. Two clashes of heads, each ruled accidental, opened cuts on Pacquiao’s face in the sixth and seventh rounds as well.
Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) won their competitive fight on all three scorecards to pull off one of boxing’s biggest upsets of 2017. Judges Ramon Cerdan (115-113), Chris Flores (115-113) and Waleska Roldan (117-111) each scored the fight for Horn.
Even if Bayless prevents Matthysse from getting physical with Pacquiao, Fortune knows the hard-hitting WBA world welterweight champion can present problems for the 39-year-old Pacquiao.
“He’s smart,” Fortune said of Matthysse. “He’s got a good trainer who has been here before and has been with very good fighters. He’s a dangerous guy.”
Joel Diaz, who worked with Timothy Bradley for the first two of his three fights against Pacquiao, is Matthysse’s trainer.
The bout between Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) and Argentina’s Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs, 1 NC) will headline an event ESPN+ will stream live Saturday, starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.