KUALA LUMPUR—Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years as he stopped WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse on Sunday—the 39-year-old Filipino icon’s first knockout win since 2009.
It was a dominant, devastating display as “smoking hot” Pacquiao registered the 60th win of a fabled 23-year career that now looks certain to extend beyond his 40th birthday in December.
Pacquiao knocked down the big-puncher from Argentina as early as the third round with a stunning left uppercut that thudded around the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.
The 35-year-old Argentine, who came in with a reputation as a big puncher, had no answer to Pacquiao’s blistering speed and he dropped again in the fifth.
When a right-left combination thudded home to send Matthysse crashing down for a third time in the seventh round referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to save him from further punishment.
“It was a long time ago since I’ve done that. I came out smoking hot,” said Pacquiao, who extended his record to 60 wins, seven losses and two draws.
“I’m surprised I knocked him down so early—in the third, fifth and seventh.
“We did a good job in training. We were not pushing hard—we controlled our pace and ourselves.
“I’m no longer young, so thanks to my trainer and all my team members.”
A shell-shocked Matthysse, who had come in with a record of 36 knockouts in 39 wins with just four defeats, conceded he had no answer to Pacquiao’s speed, movement and power as the “old Manny” returned with a vengeance.
“It’s most difficult to be fighting Manny Pacquiao,” he said. “He’s a great fighter. I lost to a great legend.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, who attended the bout at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, flashed a thumbs up after Pacquiao’s win.
“I would like to congratulate Senator Manny Pacquiao for giving us pride and bringing the Filipino nation together once more,” Duterte said in a statement.
He said Pacquiao, who is also a senator, has proven time and again that he is one of the greatest boxers of all time and not just a mere public servant.
“This win will surely cement, yet again, your position and legacy in boxing’s Hall of Fame. May you continue to inspire Filipinos not only in boxing but also in public service,” Duterte added.
“Thank you very much, Manny! You are truly the People’s Champ,” he said.
Millions of boxing fans across the Philippines erupted in cheers and tears of joy on Sunday after Pacquiao beat Matthysse.
In the run-up to the fight 39-year-old Pacquiao was trailed by whispers that he was past his prime and doubts he would be able to beat the big-punching Matthysse, who is four years his junior.
But when Pacquiao’s victory was sealed in the seventh round by technical knockout, fans around the nation of 100 million jumped to their feet and roared with joy.
“I confident he could do it. It’s not about his age,” Christopher Lasala, 39, said. “I was so happy when he knocked out Matthysse, I kept clapping. I said I knew Pacquiao would win.”
Flora dela Paz, a life-long boxing fan, had tears streaming down her face as she watched Pacquiao raise his arms in victory.
“I am just so happy. I got goosebumps,” the 68-year-old retired shoemaker said. “He won, he won!”
Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story, from high school dropout to millionaire world boxing champion in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, is a huge source of pride in the Philippines.
In keeping with tradition, many Filipinos stopped what they were doing to watch Pacquiao’s fight, which took place around midday on Sunday.
The boxer, who has a glittering 23-year career in the sport, is also a lawmaker in the nation’s Senate and a staunch ally of the President.
Following the fight, #PacquiaoMatthysse was the top trending topic on Twitter in the social media-obsessed Philippines, along with the hashtags “Manny” and “Fight of the Champions.”
Sports journalist Ryan Songalia tweeted: “Manny Pacquiao was always one knockout win from being the hottest property in boxing again. He reminded people why they loved him in the first place.”
Pacquiao’s colleagues in the Senate congratulated him on his victory.
“I thought I was watching him 10 years ago when he was 29 years old. He trained well,” said Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who was in Malaysia with Senator JV Ejercito to watch the bout.
He said Pacquiao’s fight united all Filipinos around the world. “And his victory brings pride to us all. Mabuhay ka, Senator and Champion Manny Pacquiao!”
Ejercito added: “Manny has given so much pride and honor to our country. He is one of the best boxers ever. He is already a legend. I would say he has nothing more to prove.”
Senator Cynthia A. Villar said Pacquiao has shown that nothing is impossible if you put your heart and mind in achieving a goal.
“He has proven his critics wrong and in the process, continues to inspire our youth to never stop trying even in the face of overwhelming odds. I thank Manny for fighting hard and for making the Filipino a proud race,” she said.
In a great morning in Malaysia for Filipino fighters, Jhack Tepora earlier stopped Mexico’s Edivaldo Ortega to win the interim World Boxing Association featherweight title.
Tepora unleashed a wicked short right hand in the ninth round to knock down Ortega for the first time in what had been to that point an even contest.
He swiftly followed up with a barrage of powerful swinging punches that forced the referee to step in after 2min 38sec of round nine.
“I didn’t expect the win but I really trained hard for this fight for three long months,” said the big-punching Tepora who extended his unbeaten record to 22 wins with 17 inside the distance.
Tepora cited Pacquiao as his inspiration. “When I saw Manny’s story, coming from the streets, I thought one day I could be like that and this is the first step to that dream,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.