By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
IN a rather surprising performance on Sunday at the “Fight of Champions” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Filipino boxing legend Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao became a world champion anew at the age of 39 years old after defeating Argentinean Lucas “La Maquina” Matthysse via a seventh-round technical knockout to seize the World Boxing Association world welterweight title.
Showing power and speed that many thought he no longer had, Mr. Pacquiao dominated the erstwhile champion right from the opening bell, knocking Mr. Matthysse down three times, the last one in the seventh round that forced referee Kenny Bayless to signal off the fight and eventually proclaim the Filipino superstar as the new champion.
For local combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano, two things stood out for Mr. Pacquiao in Fight of Champions — a key piece in his arsenal in the left uppercut and the good job trainer and friend Buboy Fernandez did in preparing him for the fight.
“Manny Pacquiao surprised everyone with a spectacular performance against Lucas Matthysse. He did show shades of his vintage form. I believe his drubbing of Matthysse is his best performance since 2011. Although he was active in throwing his best shots from rounds one to seven, you would notice that he remained patient and calculated,” said Mr. Icasiano in an interview with BusinessWorld following the fight on Sunday.
“I also noticed that he found another key piece in his arsenal, which was the left uppercut that brought down the Argentinean twice in the fight. Now it makes me wonder why Pacquiao did not throw his uppercut as much throughout his career. I will give Buboy Fernandez a pat on the back for this. Got to give credit where it’s due,” he added.
Performing the way he did against Matthysse, Mr. Icasiano said perhaps Mr. Pacquiao is signaling that he is not about done in boxing even as he said that if it were up to him he would suggest for the Pacman to call it a career now on a high and good note.
“After a sensational victory over Matthysse, I believe Manny eyes a super-fight against Vasyl Lomachenko. He also wants a date with Amir Khan. But for me, it’s time for him to call it a career. He is back on top of his game. He earned his 12th world title in eight different weight classes. Not everyone gets a glorious exit from the sport, and he deserves a storybook ending,” Mr. Icasiano said.
As for Mr. Fernandez, the dynamic between him and Mr. Pacquiao, honed by longtime friendship and partnership, could not be denied, Mr. Icasiano said, and that if the Pacman decides to go with him the rest of his career it would be fine.
The analyst, however, said that he is not ruling out the return of American Freddie Roach, who trained Mr. Pacquiao for much of his storied career, more so if the fighter still seeks to take on the best in the game right now.
“Buboy did wonders for Manny Pacquiao in this (Matthysse) fight. He made Manny look great again. However, if he seeks to duke it out with Lomachenko or the other champions of the division such as Terrence Crawford, Errol Spence and Keith Thurman, he will need a great mind such as Freddie Roach in his corner to devise a great game plan,” Mr. Icasiano said.
The Matthysse win was the 60th for Mr. Pacquiao as opposed to seven losses and two draws.
It was the first stoppage victory for him in nine years. The last time he won in such a fashion was in November 2009 when he defeated Miguel Cotto by technical knockout in the 12th round to win the World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
Mr. Pacquiao said he is going to enjoy his latest victory first and return to work as a senator of the republic before making his decision on his next move in the boxing ring.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo