BOXING

Pacquiao Returns and Dominates Matthysse, Prograis Stops Velasco

Manny Pacquiao Scores First Stoppage in Years, Beats Lucas Matthysse for Title

He may not be the Manny Pacquiao of old. But he isn’t exactly an old Manny Pacquiao either.

Granted, the Pacquiao we saw this past weekend has but a fraction of the all-time-great talent we saw years ago, back when he was in the midst of a run that ultimately saw him move from one weight class to another, adding world title after world title to an already stellar career, winning them in a remarkable eight divisions, including becoming the true champion in four of them.

But Pacquiao at 39, nearing 40, is still a pretty good fighter when he trains right and takes his opponent seriously.

There are those who feel Pacquiao didn’t do that when he fought Jeff Horn last year, with many of them believing Pacquiao still did enough to win while getting roughed up much more than he should’ve against a fighter of Horn’s caliber, only to lose a highly controversial decision.

Pacquiao took a year off and then looked to be in much better form against Lucas Matthysse on Saturday night — Sunday morning in Malaysia, where the fight took place. Pacquiao dominated Matthysse over the course of seven rounds, scoring three knockdowns, winning by technical knockout, and once again capturing a world title at welterweight.

From the beginning, Pacquiao had little trouble dodging much of what Matthysse threw, and absorbing Matthysse’s once-vaunted power the rest of the time. Pacquiao flashed his speed with counters and combinations, giving Matthysse pause when it came to his own offense, as well as his capabilities on defense.

The knockdowns further demoralized Matthysse. Pacquiao dropped him early in Round 3, sending out a southpaw jab and then following with a left from afar — but curving it upward in the form of an extended, oddly angled uppercut, the shot splitting through Matthysse’s gloves and delivering him to the canvas.

Matthysse was now even more aware of the danger Pacquiao presented. And Matthysse also knew that he was having very little success with his own arsenal. Through three rounds, he’d landed just 16 power shots.

Some frustration began to show. Matthysse bulled his head against Pacquiao’s in Round 5. Later in the round, he landed a good left hook and a decent right hand. But Pacquiao soon wiped away whatever work Matthysse had put in, sending out a few jabs and following with a right hook that appeared to be a glancing blow to the temple but led Matthysse to take a knee.

The third and final knockdown came late in Round 7. Similar to the first knockdown of the night, Pacquiao led with a right hook and followed with a left uppercut from a distance. Matthysse dropped. His mouthpiece came out. It seemed as if Matthysse could’ve continued, but the referee had seen enough.

Pacquiao moved to 60-7-2 with 39 knockouts, and it is that last number that is particularly notable. This was Pacquiao’s first win by knockout or technical knockout since 2009, when he beat Miguel Cotto. He’d won nine times since then, all by decision, and lost three fights.

But let’s not get too excited. Although Matthysse held a world title, it was a vacant belt that he’d picked up against an unheralded opponent, and he hadn’t exactly looked fantastic in beating Tewa Kiram for it this past January. Matthysse is 35, nearly 36, and is himself clearly no longer in his prime.

Whatever Pacquiao has left is much better than what Matthysse has left.

And so it is Matthysse (now 39-5 with 36 KOs) who may want to think hard about the future of his career, including whether he has what it takes to compete against the top 147-pounders of today — he doesn’t — and whether he’d be content instead fighting out the rest of his years against lesser foes for lesser paydays.

Pacquiao will himself need to manage his next moves wisely. There are some younger, incredibly talented fighters at welterweight, including Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, and there is a second and third tier of still-quality names, including Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. And while not of as much quality, there’s also the circus that would be a fight with Adrien Broner.

Another name being floated is Vasyl Lomachenko, who is the top fighter at 135. Lomachenko’s manager has said that fight would need to take place at lightweight, which Pacquiao hasn’t made since 2008. That should be seen as a starting point in negotiations. Perhaps Pacquiao could comfortably drop down to a midway point of 140 instead and convince Lomachenko to take the bout.

We’ll see. Given Pacquiao’s track record in recent years — going to Australia to face Horn, inviting Matthysse to Malaysia — he and his team seem to be balancing risk and reward, trying to get some more paydays before Pacquiao finally does hang them up for good.

After all, he’s never going to be the Manny Pacquiao of old again. And every month that passes could take him farther away from the Pacquiao we saw against Matthysse. Someday, indeed, it truly will be game over for the Pac-Man.

 

Regis Prograis Beats Velasco, Ready for Major Tournament at 140

People have been talking up junior welterweight Regis Prograis ever since he was a prospect. The buzz has continued to build over the past year, and for good reason.

He’s made short work of a fellow unbeaten prospect in Joel Diaz Jr., taken out former titleholder Julius Indongo in just two rounds, and on Saturday night added another previously undefeated fighter’s name to his record, stopping Juan Jose Velasco in eight rounds.

Velasco was game, using movement and counters early on, but also fighting in-range. Prograis kept coming, kept letting his hands go, taking advantage of Velasco’s willingness to stand in with him. That left Velasco close enough for body shots, and that’s where Prograis went to score knockdowns in the fifth, seventh and eighth rounds.

After Round 7, Velasco told his trainer that he didn’t want to continue. They sent him back out anyway, and Velasco soon went back down, his head shaking, his mouthpiece out. But Velasco got up once more and fired back, only for Prograis to continue to throw, and Velasco’s corner realized what their fighter already knew — that the fight didn’t need to go on any further.

Prograis moves to 22-0 with 19 KOs and will now move on to the World Boxing Super Series’ upcoming junior welterweight tournament, which also features titleholder Kiryl Relikh; contenders Josh Taylor, Ivan Baranchyk, Ryan Martin and Anthony Yigit; former 140-pound titleholder Eduard Troyanovsky, and former 135-pound titleholder Terry Flanagan.

The victor will be positioned as the clear leader of the division. Two titleholders are not participating — Maurice Hooker and Jose Ramirez — so there will be good fights waiting once the tournament is over.

Velasco is now 20-0-1 with 12 KOs.

 

 

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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