Is Manny Pacquiao at a career crossroads in his July 15 WBA title bid?
On July 15, eight-division world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao will return to action for his first bout of 2018, a little over a year since he was last in the ring.
Pacquiao last fought in the summer of 2017, losing a controversial split decision to former WBO world welterweight champion Jeff Horn. Pacquiao was defending that very WBO title he had secured when he defeated Jessie Vargas the previous November.
The Horn bout was supposed to be a winnable fight and then the Filipino legend was going to look at big fight opportunities against pound-for-pound denizen Vasiliy Lomachenko, Terence Crawford or Amir Khan.
Now Pacquiao is looking to pick up the WBA “regular” welterweight title with a win over Lucas Matthysse, a hard-hitting, rugged Argentinean who won his belt last January.
However these are different times for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao, 59-7-2 (38), is 39 years old, and has 68 fights under his belt, after 23 years in the game. While camp reports are good, and it looks like he has maintained some of his speed and reflexes, he clearly isn’t the Pacquiao of old, who overwhelmed opponents with blinding speed and routinely threw 100-plus punches per round.
If Pacquiao does win the fight, and pick up another belt, he will be in some strong company, should he find himself facing any of the other champions at 147 pounds.
The division’s beltholders also includes WBA “super” champion Keith Thurman, IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. and WBO champ Crawford. (For what it’s worth, the combined records of these three champions is 85-0 with 67 knockouts).
A measuring stick to gauge how Pacquiao might fare against some of the other champs is to look at how easily Crawford dispatched Horn last June, winning every minute of the fight before stopping him in the ninth round. While many felt Pacquiao did more than enough to beat Horn when they met, he didn’t dominate him like Crawford did.
The reality is, a few years ago, Pacquiao mows down Horn with ease.
Another change is, for the first time in 17 years, Pacquiao will enter the ring without his close friend, father figure and longtime trainer Freddie Roach in his corner. Pacquiao insists their relationship is not over and that he would like to work with Roach again. However the rumors are that Pacquiao wasn’t happy with Roach’s corner work in his loss in Australia and felt – for now anyway – it was time for a change, be it temporary or permanent.
But like much of Pacquiao’s career, there is always a lot swirling around the champion, and his busy life, in and out of the ring. Personal and professional multi-tasking seem to have no bearing on his training and his focus on fight night. There can be a world of distractions in Pacquiao’s life but he seems to be able to compartmentalize them, and focus on the task at hand in the gym and in the ring.
Despite pushing 40 years old, with a lot of miles on the odometer, it seems Pacquiao doesn’t want to retire, and will take it one fight at a time, as he moves forward.
In recent interviews, Pacquiao seemed his usual confident self and was looking forward to the challenge of Matthysse, 39-4 (36), and the opportunities a win would bring for him down the line. However he was also realistic as to what he needed to do in the ring and how he needed to look doing it.
“I am not saying it will be the last (fight) but it will be the basis for (me) to think about (whether) to continue or not,” Pacquiao said after a recent training session. “So I am trying my best and doing our best in the training in this fight to show if I can still do it or not. A young Manny Pacquiao throwing a lot of punches, and more footwork, head movements, side-by-side motions, that’s my goal to achieve for this fight. Matthysse is a very aggressive fighter. I am not worried about his style. My worry is I need to get 100 percent conditioned – the stamina, the power and the strength to survive the 12 rounds.”
Legendary in his beloved home country for his philanthropic generosity to the poor, Pacquiao also juggles a full-time senate position in the Philippines.
But he fights on and keeps his professional boxing career going, despite a very busy life as a politician, pro athlete, husband and father of five children. Fans are interested to see what he has left and where he goes from here.
Lucas Matthysse wants to send Pacquiao into retirement.
Pacquiao is looking to enter the ring in the condition that will channel the fast, aggressive, lightning-fast Pacman of old.
He loves being a champion and representing his people in the Philippines and he loves the paydays that come from world championship boxing. Senator or not, nothing pays Pacquiao like elite-level prizefighting. And the more money Pacquiao makes, the more he can give back to his people.
It was once joked that “There is a great welfare system in the Philippines, and his name is Manny Pacquiao.” Trying to support an impoverished country doesn’t come cheap. Manny doesn’t see it that way. He feels it is what God wants him to do and it is his duty to help the less fortunate.
On July 15, both Pacquiao and Matthysse will look to show the boxing world that they indeed have some fight left in them. On that same night, the boxing world will probably get a pretty good look at the shelf life, and current career direction, of both fighters.