Manny Pacquiao gave the people what they came to see.
The Filipino senator scored his first finish in nearly nine years when he dropped Lucas Matthysse Sunday at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a left uppercut in the seventh round. Matthysse, who had also been down in the third and fifth, seemed sapped of his spirit and had no interest in getting up.
The victory, which was on Saturday in the U.S., was the 60th of his storied career and earned him a version of the WBA welterweight title. The time of the stoppage was 2:43 of the seventh.
Pacquiao, who was coming off a controversial loss to Jeff Horn a year ago, looked rejuvenated, though Matthysse offered little resistance. He did little more than throw the 1-2 and offered few angles, no movement, no body work and used no feints.
He was in against a better man, though. Even at 39, Pacquiao’s quickness and hand and foot speed is among the best in the division, and it was on display against Matthysse, who was never in the bout.
Pacquiao certainly isn’t the force that he was a decade ago, when in a two-year span he won titles at super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight in one of the dominant runs in modern boxing.
But he was more than enough for Matthysse. Pacquiao was bouncing on his toes and countering what few shots of consequence that Matthysse threw.
It was his first fight in nearly 20 years without Freddie Roach as his trainer, but Roach’s absence was hardly missed.
“We did a good job, my team, we did a good job in training,” Pacquiao said in the ring after the bout. “We controlled ourselves in training.”
He clearly controlled the action, particularly with Matthysse seemingly wanting to be anywhere but across the ring from Pacquiao.
Pacquiao landed an insanely high 43.6 percent of his power shots, connecting on 79 of the 181 he threw. Given how hard Pacquiao still punches, it was more than enough to get the job done.
Now, whether he can do that against the likes of Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman, the cream of the welterweight crop, is debatable.
But Pacquiao still has enough skill to beat the majority of fighters in his division, which is one of the best in the sport. He’s no longer the devastating puncher he once was, when he literally destroyed Ricky Hatton, retired Oscar De La Hoya and battered Miguel Cotto. He’s also slowed down a few steps as he’s moved inexorably toward his 40th birthday.
He proved, though, that he’ll be a tough out when he is motivated and has time to train. His political career often cuts into his boxing training, and that puts him at a disadvantage, especially if he faces an elite opponent.
At this stage and in this condition, though, he’ll chew up and spit out fighters the ilk of Matthysse all day long.
“I’m happy to go back to my country to celebrate this victory with my countrymen, the Filipino people,” Pacquiao said.
Unlike a year ago when he lost to Horn in Australia, there is plenty of reason for Filipinos to celebrate now.
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