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Pacquiao vs Matthysse: Fight preview and matchup

Manny Pacquiao returns to face dangerous Lucas Matthysse on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao v Jeff Horn Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Record: 59-7-2 (38 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 6-4 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’5½” / 67” ... Age: 39

Thoughts: Pacquiao is turning 40 in December of this year and hasn’t been himself in a long time. He’s no longer a destroyer, no longer the guy who viciously knocked out Ricky Hatton or went to war with Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales.

On one hand, I think the 6-4 mark Pacquiao has in his last 10 is misleading. Two of those losses — to Tim Bradley and Jeff Horn — are debatable at best. But the other two, not as much. He was famously starched by Marquez in 2012 in their final bout, and then was simply beaten by Floyd Mayweather in 2015, a fight we spent years trying to get and then wound up one of the great disappointments of all time. I mean, even my aunt bought that on pay-per-view. To say she wasn’t a big fan of the “action” would be an understatement.

But even forgetting the legit losses and writing off the results of the Bradley loss and the Horn loss, there was a big problem with Pacquiao in that last outing. He lost to Horn because he wasn’t able to convince those judges. He gave Horn too many chances to steal their attention and their favor. He fought, to be frank, quite poorly considering his level.

Finally, I thought Pacquiao looked truly old, like a fighter on the way out. Maybe the second career in politics has finally caught up to him. Maybe it’s just age, wear and tear, after a long and hard career and plenty of tough battles. Maybe he just doesn’t have the fire anymore. Maybe it’s all of that. It’s probably all of that.

Now, he’s without Freddie Roach, too. That’s big. We’ve seen fighters turn to friends as trainers in the past. I’ll never forget when Miguel Cotto let his buddy “train” him to fight Pacquiao.

Now, Matthysse isn’t exactly the opponent that 2009 Manny was for Miguel, but what if Matthysse starts doing some good work and Manny needs to adjust? Will Buboy Fernandez be able to coach him through tough spots, should they arise? That’s a big story to me going into this fight, hasn’t been discussed enough, if anything.

Lucas Matthysse

Lucas Matthysse v Emmanuel Taylor Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Record: 39-4 (36 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’6½” / 69” ... Age: 35

Thoughts: Matthysse is 35, so not a lot younger than Pacquiao, and similarly appears to be on the decline. When he was knocked out by Viktor Postol in 2015, that was an upset, and it was something really nobody saw coming. Even if you thought Postol was a live dog, him knocking Matthysse out was not really supposed to be in the cards.

I thought there was a chance Matthysse was flat done there. He gave up in that fight, got worn out by Postol. It was a bad loss — not because Postol can’t fight, but because of the nature of it all.

But Matthysse did come back last year with a solid TKO-5 win over Emmanuel Taylor, and followed that up in January of this year with a knockout over Tewa Kiram. When that fight came up, I said I thought Kiram could be dangerous. He was bigger and naturally stronger than Matthysse, and he wound up giving Matthysse a pretty tough go of it before Matthysse knocked him out in the eighth round.

Did we see Matthysse reaching his limit in that fight? Maybe. I understand the argument. But I believe that a fighter with Matthysse’s power is really dangerous against a 39-year-old Pacquiao, who could be flat done in more ways than one, not the least of which is having a foot out the door with his political career, plus replacing Freddie Roach, not working with Top Rank beyond them dealing with U.S. TV deals, and all kinds of other things.

Matchup Grade: B. To me, there’s a lot in the air with Pacquiao here. It may be one fight too many. But Matthysse isn’t coming in like a house afire, either. So we’ll see. I like the fight in that I think it has the ingredients to be entertaining, and we’re still getting to see a living legend in action. What does he have left? That remains to be seen. I think there’s potential for a stinker here, too, in the worst case scenario, which is Pacquiao content to be tentative and Matthysse unable to pull the trigger and make it a fight, which he’ll need to do. Hopefully, we get a good scrap.

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