We need to talk about Manny Pacquiao. Yes, he knocked out Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round of their fight on Saturday, a fight in which he won every round by a wide margin. Yes, he looked great, vintage even, knocking the Argentinian down in the third and fifth rounds before finally finishing him off. Yes, it was Pacquaio’s first finish since he stopped Miguel Cotto in 2009. But, what exactly does any of that mean?
Immediately after the fight two theories emerged. For some boxing journalists, the fight didn’t mean a whole lot, it was simply Pacquaio beating a far inferior fighter who was also past his prime, if not further past his prime than Manny. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix tweeted that at this point in his career, Matthysse was a C-level fighter at best, analyst Lee Wylie pointed out “Matthysse is shot” and Ring Magazine’s Ryan Songalia noted that Matthysse’s balance was off from the opening bell with the “legs of a shot fighter.” Patrick O’Connor argued that although Pacquaio deserved credit, “Matthysse brought very little to the fight.” Even Bob Arum, Pacquaio’s promoter, tried to intercept this seemingly obvious criticism by making the analogy that if a man hits three home runs in a single game, you don’t assume that the pitcher must have been bad. There was also a strong rumor going around the internet that this was the first fight in years that Pacquiao was not being VADA tested for. I could not verify if that was true, but it was another prominent criticism of Pacquiao’s performance spreading throughout twitter.
But, for others the old, fast and ferocious Pacquaio was back and ready for bigger things. His shoulder had healed, time off had rejuvenated him, leaving Freddie Roach was apparently the best decision he ever made, and this fight was the beginning of the Pacquaio renaissance. ESPN’s Nick Parkinson wrote that “This win -- his first knockout since stopping Miguel Cotto in November 2009 -- has silenced arguments that he is on the slide after losing to Jeff Horn a year ago” while the LA Times’, Lance Pugmire wrote that with his “rebirth” Pacquaio “reclaimed his relevance in a sport in need of another major draw.”
But, whether the old Pacquiao returned, or a first ballot hall of famer just beat up a far lesser fighter than himself, the two camps agreed on one thing; a fight with either Terence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko is likely next for Pacquiao, and those fights are probably unwinnable for the man who turns 40 in December. So, when everything is said and done, the most likely scenario remains this: Pacquaio isn’t what he once was, but he is still good enough to beat everybody but the most elite. The problem is, Lomachenko and Crawford are the elite of the elite, and even if a prime Pacquiao showed up to fight them, it might not matter.
On the undercard of the Pacquiao-Matthysse fight, another Filipino knockout machine stopped his opponent, when Jhack Tepora hit Edivaldo Ortega with an uppercut that stopped him in the ninth round. Ortega managed to stand up on shaky legs, but a quick flurry led the referee to stop the bout in favor of the undefeated (22-0, 17 KO’s), new interim WBA featherweight champion. Tepora was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
Singapore also saw Moruti Mthalane get off the canvas to win a very tight, 114-113, 114-113, 116-110 decision over Pakistan’s Muhammed Waseem. This was a great fight, with Mthalane almost getting knocked out right before the final bell, and had Waseem not struggled so much early in the fight, it may well have been even closer. For Waseem, the young, inexperienced fighter proved he is someone to look for as his career matures, while the veteran Mthalane was able to win the IBF flyweight title 38 fights into a lengthy career.
While Muhammed Waseem stepped up to show that although inexperienced he absolutely belonged in a title fight, China’s Bin Lu showed the exact opposite, and boxing showed it prioritizes money against reason. Carlos Canizales stopped Li in the 12th round of a fight he dominated, with Lu so hurt that he had to be rushed to the hospital on a stretcher. Letting Lu, who had one professional boxing match before this one, take this fight was a horrible decision. Lu was not even an Olympic medalist, and someone thought it was a good idea to put him in a title fight in his second ever professional boxing match against a 20-0 fighter. This one ended badly, but it could have ended much worse.
Outside of Singapore, New Orleans’ Regis Prograis gave his hometown a show, knocking down Juan Jose Velasco three times with bodyshots before finishing him in the eighth round. The fight actually had a very weird, and rather unnerving moment when Velasco wanted to quit on his stool but was talked into going back out there by his trainer, only to be stopped shortly after. Prograis is widely considered the world’s best fighter at super lightweight and with his knockout power and mean streak is a fun fighter to watch. After the fight called out everybody from Pacquiao to Lomachenko, to everyone in the World Boxing Super Series, which he said he plans to enter.
And finally, Liverpool England’s Rocky Felding stopped Germany’s Tyron Zeuge in the fifth round, in a fight that took place in Germany. Felding suffered a brutal knockout loss to Callum Smith in 2015, and should Smith win the World Boxing Super Series (he’s in the final against George Groves) the two are expected to meet in a rematch.
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