By Keith Idec
Manny Pacquiao finally ended his knockout drought Sunday.
The 39-year-old Filipino icon knocked down Lucas Matthysse three times and stopped him in the seventh round of their 12-round, 147-pound championship match at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) won by knockout for the first time since he stopped Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of their WBO welterweight title fight in November 2009.
Referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight at 2:43 of the seventh round, with Matthysse on one knee. Pacquiao previously dropped Matthysse in the third and fifth rounds.
Bayless began to count once Matthysse went down for the third time in the bout. Matthysse spit out his mouthpiece, though, and Bayless quickly determined he shouldn’t continue.
“I’m surprised because Matthysse’s a very tough opponent and I knocked him down,” Pacquiao said, before adding it was “a long time ago” since he knocked down an opponent three times.
The 35-year-old Matthysse (39-5, 36 KOs, 1 NC) simply couldn’t contend with Pacquiao’s speed and activity, even at the full-time senator’s advanced age. The knockout artist from Argentina never seemed to hurt Pacquiao, either.
“He’s a great fighter and a great champion,” Matthysse said through a translator. “It turned around. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Today it was my turn to lose. But I lost to a great fighter, a great legend, Manny Pacquiao.”
Pacquiao won only a version of the WBA’s welterweight title from Matthysse. Often-injured Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) is the WBA’s “super” 147-pound champion, its true title-holder in that division.
Matthysse attempted to defend a WBA world welterweight championship he won by knocking out Thailand’s Tewa Kiram (38-1, 28 KOs) in the eighth round of his prior fight, January 27 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Pacquiao won in his first fight in more than a year. Before Saturday night, he hadn’t boxed since then-unknown Jeff Horn upset him to win the WBO welterweight title last July 2 in Brisbane, Australia.
Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) won their 12-round title bout on all three scorecards, but his victory caused controversy because Pacquiao appeared to do enough to win.
Pacquiao also won in his first fight without Freddie Roach in his corner in more than a decade-and-a-half. Pacquiao parted ways with his longtime trainer after losing to Horn and elevated longtime assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez, his childhood friend, to head trainer for the Matthysse fight.
Matthysse lost by knockout for just the second time in his 14-year pro career. Ukraine’s Viktor Postol (29-1, 12 KOs) was the first fighter to knock out Matthysse when Postol stopped him in the 10th round of their October 2015 fight for the WBC super lightweight title.
Even if Matthysse isn’t as formidable as he was several years ago, the older Pacquiao proved that he still can win at the championship level by producing this dominant performance.
Pacquiao dropped Matthysse with a left uppercut for the second time in the fight, and third time overall, with 23 seconds to go in the seventh round. Bayless waved an end to the fight with a dejected Matthysse on one knee.
Matthysse hit Pacquiao low with a right hand and Bayless gave Pacquiao time to recuperate 20 seconds into the sixth round. Pacquiao began throwing hard punches as soon as the action resumed.
Matthysse clipped Pacquiao with a left hook with around 30 seconds to go in the fifth. Pacquiao quickly came back by landing a short right hook to the temple that made Matthysse take a knee just before the fifth round ended.
Matthysse again got up and the round ended right after he reached his feet.
Pacquiao backed up Matthysse with two left hands within the first 20 seconds of the fifth round. An accidental clash of heads initiated a brief break with 1:13 to go in the fifth.
Pacquiao hit Matthysse with two straight left hands during a five-second stretch with just under a minute left in the fourth round. Earlier in the fourth, Matthysse connected with a straight right hand that Pacquiao took well.
Pacquiao dropped Matthysse with a left hand 26 seconds into the third round. Matthysse landed on the seat of his trunks, but he answered Bayless’ count at five and made it to the end of the round.
Pacquiao came out aggressive in the first round and kept Matthysse mostly fighting off his back foot in those three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.