by Cliff Rold
It wasn’t the blazing destroyer of a decade ago but Manny Pacquiao found enough of his old self, and the right opponent in Lucas Matthysse, to give fans another good memory. With the right matchmaking, he can keep doing it for a bit longer.
That’s not a bad thing for boxing.
There aren’t a lot of fighters like Manny Pacquiao, today or ever. Wait a lifetime and we might never see another former flyweight champion rise to compete with top welterweights. His extended twilight, and the travel coming with it, gives new fans a chance to see one of the game’s living legends.
To the fans in the crowd in Malaysia last weekend, that will be something they can tell future generations of fans about. For the first time since 2009, the fans in attendance can say they saw Pacquiao knock someone out. How many more crowds will be able to say the same?
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Pacquiao: The 39-year old great has aged. He’s not shot yet and that will mean more business down the line. He took a few heavy shots last weekend, showing his chin and legs are still reliable enough. Matthysse hasn’t looked great recently but given Pacquiao’s age and miles he looked like he could still be dangerous. Pacquiao fought like he thought so too and dissected the Argentine. How much business Pacquiao does going forward will depend on whose goals are served. If Pacquiao is trying to bank paydays, a showdown with welterweight titlist Terence Crawford or some catchweight bout with lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko could shorten his earning window. Those two, along with an Errol Spence who is probably the least makeable of bad options, represent three prominent champions he probably can’t beat. It doesn’t mean he won’t fight any of them.
As Oscar De La Hoya was for him, he could be for a Crawford if the price is right. Outside them, based on the form he showed not only last weekend but also against Timothy Bradley, Jessie Vargas, and in spots against Jeff Horn, Pacquiao still looks competitive with fighters like Danny Garcia, can probably make money with an Amir Khan particularly if he goes to his home court, and if the WBA could force a mandatory it says here a showdown with the inactive Keith Thurman could be interesting. Pacquiao has options because he’s Pacquiao and outside a few names that look a little too good, too prime, and too young for him, he doesn’t appear to have reached the place where just anyone can beat him. There’s still something to see here.
The Future for Matthysse: The legs of Matthysse were a problem from the start. Watching the first three minutes, his balance seemed a little off. It didn’t get better as Pacquiao started to land. Matthysse landed some good right hands on the night, and tried the best he could, but his hourglass has simply run out. The fighter who rallied against John Molina, who walked through hell against Ruslan Provodnikov, is replaced by what is left at 35 years old. Not every fighter is done at the same age. Matthysse looks like he’s there.
There is no shame in losing to Pacquiao at any stage but this fight, coupled with a shaky if winning performance his last out, and the knockout loss to Postol, are a pretty good body of evidence. Should he continue, he might be able to beat some no-hopers but above that he’s probably in the stage where he becomes the guy young fighters use to build fledgling resumes. Whether he wants to do that or not is up to him. He’s had a fun career. He never hit the top of the mountain and is a reminder that, even in an era with so many belts, it’s not as easy to win one (WBA sub-titles really don’t count) as it can seem to be.
Rold Picks 2018: 24-9 (Including Prograis-Velasco, Mthalane-Wassem)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]