KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Manny Pacquiao reborn.
Turning back the years, a younger, faster, flashier version of Pacquiao showed up and stopped Lucas Matthysse in 7 rounds on Sunday, July 15, to clinch the World Boxing Association welterweight crown at Axiata Arena here.
And Pacquiao quickly gave credit to bosom buddy Buboy Fernandez, who took over the coaching rein from Freddie Roach.
“I feel so blessed. Especially Buboy’s strategy is very effective. He did a good job,” said Pacquiao, who praised the entire training team for keeping him in check during the preparations back home.
“It’s just a matter of resting my body after pushing it to the limit. That’s what I did for this fight,” said Pacquiao, claiming that he felt like 28 or 27 years old again.
“We changed things up this time,” said Pacquiao’s conditioning coach Justin Fortune. “We did a whole bunch of different work. We were shocking his system back into working.
“It’s a different style of training – shorter, faster and more intense. So his body reacts differently. So that’s why he looks like the old Pacquiao.”
Pacquiao, who Fortune said had been initially stubborn to change his ways, acknowledged that the new training regime had paid off.
“This is true,” said Pacquiao. “This training is very special. Because basically my team told me to stop training (too much).”
Also scoring knockdowns in the 3rd and 5th rounds, the 39-year-old Pacquiao capped his dominant performance with a left uppercut that sent the Argentine to his knees again.
Referee Kenny Bayless started to count, but upon seeing Matthysse’s eyes, waved off the bout 2 minutes and 43 seconds into the 7th, sending the predominantly Filipino crowd that included President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohammad, into a frenzy.
This marked the first time that two heads of state sat together to watch Pacquiao, a Philippine senator, fight.
Pacquiao thus ended a long knockout drought since stopping Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto in 2009 and added his first WBA title to his collection of 12 world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
“I’m not done yet. I’m still there. I am back in boxing, “said Pacquiao, who debunked notions that he’s a washout after losing his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown to Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane last year.
Reaping the benefits of an intensive eight-week training camp in General Santos, Pacquiao applied pressure on Matthysse from the opening bell and lived up to his promise of throwing more punches.
Pacquiao sneaked in a hybrid hook-upper to send Matthysse to the floor in the 3rd round, sending alarm signals to the Argentine bench.
As Pacquiao continued switching bombardment to the head and body, Matthysse persevered to defend, occasionally landing counters, which did little to fend off the onrushing Pacquiao.
A couple of left hooks followed by a left straight tagged Matthysse again, sending the Argentine slowly done on his knees again in a delayed reaction.
Getting desperate, Matthysse flicked a low blow in the 6th round, halting the fight for a moment as Pacquiao shook it off, triggering a howl of protests.
By the 7th round, Matthysse’s confidence was gone and his wobbly legs finally gave way.
Prior to the bout beamed in the United States by ESPN+ through live streaming and beamed to over 200 countries, Pacquiao has dropped four of his last 13 fights, tarnishing his reputation as the world’s best boxer pound-for-pound.
After his 39th knockout that reverberated back home and throughout the world, Pacquiao climbed to 60 wins against 7 defeats and two draws in a ring career spanning 23 years.
Shaken and humbled, Matthysse fell to 39-5, 36 of those victories by knockout.
Against Pacquiao’s speed and power, however, Matthysse has no answer.
“He’s a great fighter, a great champion,” said Matthysse. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and now it’s my turn.”
“This convincing victory is in honor of my country,” added Pacuiao, who paid tribute to Duterte after Michael Buffer made the official announcement. The President, in return, made a two thumbs up sign from an enclosed box where he and Mahathir were seated.
As to what’s in store for him, Pacquiao said there are many fights out there, mentioning Amir Khan, Terrence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko as possible opponents.
For now, however, Pacquiao is savoring the feeling of being young again. – with a report from Agence France-Presse
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