Manny Pacquiao is faded. But boy howdy, is he not faded enough for the likes of Lucas Matthysse.
Last night’s win in Kuala Lumpur was the 39-year-old Pacquiao’s first stoppage victory since he routed Miguel Cotto in 2009. He was in against a similarly past-peak opponent who probably never would have beaten him or even given him that great of a fight, but still, Manny looked sharp. He looked good in there. He dominated.
In a sense, he looked like The Pacquiao of Old.
But he’s not The Pacquiao of Old. He never will be again. Time has taken its toll as it does to any fighter, be they a journeyman or a legend. The most important thing Pacquiao showed, I think, is that there’s still some spark.
I worried going in that the story lined up too perfectly for this to be Pacquiao’s end in the ring, and I don’t shy away from the fact that I made a reckless gut feeling pick for a Matthysse win. As I said repeatedly, it wasn’t that I thought Matthysse was better than Pacquiao now.
It was that Pacquiao, nearing 40, has the miles, was working without Freddie Roach, is “distracted” by his work as a Senator in the Philippines, and is essentially half-retired at this point. When fighters put a foot out the door, it generally doesn’t take long for things to end.
Maybe, though, what I overlooked was that Pacquiao might have needed a fresh start without Roach. Fighters change trainers all the time. Maybe Manny and Freddie had simply gone as far as they were gonna go together — and they scaled some unprecedented heights — and the spark between them had gone out. No more to teach, no more to learn.
Maybe the year off did Manny some good. Maybe the way he fought against Jeff Horn, where I thought he deserved to win but understood how the judges came to their conclusion that he didn’t, woke Manny up a little bit. If I’m going to continue fighting, he may have thought, changes must happen, because this isn’t working anymore.
So here we are. Manny Pacquiao with his 60th win, the WBA “world” welterweight title, and some options.
When asked after the fight what he wanted to do next, Pacquiao simply stated he wanted to get back to his political work at home in the Philippines. But that’s his answer. Let’s wildly speculate.
The big one, the one that Top Rank seems to want and Manny wants, is a move down to 135 to face top pound-for-pound fighter Vasyl Lomachenko. It seems an easier sell now to me than it did before the win over Matthysse. Pacquiao looked strong and motivated against Lucas, and a fight against Lomachenko might be more intriguing on paper for a lot of people, myself included.
Am I interested in what Manny might still have left at 135? Sure. Lomachenko is not a natural 135, but that might really still be Manny’s best weight, if he can make it comfortable. But it does still remind me of Oscar De La Hoya droppin back to welterweight to fight Manny, and we know how that went. Still, that was an important torch-passing fight. If nothing else, Pacquiao-Lomachenko could be another one.
Speaking of torch-passing, we thought for a while that Manny would potentially pass to Terence Crawford. Instead, Crawford has already made himself arguably the No. 1 man at 147, and there seems to be little Top Rank interest in matching the two at this point. So that’s probably a no-go.
As far as the PBC welterweights — Errol Spence Jr, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or Shawn Porter, etc. — those guys are probably out, too.
How about Amir Khan? Pac and Khan used to train together at the Wild Card, and for years there’s been talk off-and-on of them fighting each other at some point. It seems viable for each man at this stage of his career, and would probably still be the biggest fight available for Khan, even bigger than the Kell Brook bout he doesn’t really seem that excited about.
A rematch with Jeff Horn? I doubt it. Pacquiao passed on it once and now Horn has been soundly beaten by Crawford. That rematch would have had some kick last November, but it doesn’t right now.
If I were making a guess, we’ll see Manny against Lomachenko. Too many people (as in, Manny and Top Rank) want it, and even if Lomachenko and his team didn’t before, money talks and it’s easily the biggest money fight for Lomachenko. And maybe Pacquiao’s performance against Matthysse changed their mind, who knows?
We’ll have to wait and see. But Manny doesn’t look done to me, and I’m interested to see what direction he heads now. There’s still a little something there for Pacman.