Manny Pacquiao had an idea what was coming, thanks to his hard work in training camp, but as he punctuated his destruction of Lucas Matthysse, the moment hit him back with all the force of his own decisive uppercut.
“I’m so satisfied with my condition, my training, my strategy … my fire is still there and I kept my aggressiveness without getting careless,” Pacquiao told the Times on Sunday from Malaysia after knocking out Matthysse in the seventh round. “I’m so, so happy.”
By posting his first knockout win since stopping former four-division champion Miguel Cotto in 2009, the 39-year-old Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) claimed the secondary World Boxing Assn. welterweight title and reclaimed his relevance in a sport in need of another major draw.
Celebrating the rebirth of Pacquiao, who was upset by Jeff Horn in Australia a year ago and then split with trainer Freddie Roach, was Pacquiao’s longtime promoter, Bob Arum.
“He looked better in that fight than he has in years,” Arum said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I felt if he had taken a beating, it would spell the end of his career, but from the get-go, I saw Manny fought a very smart fight and his speed was way too much for Matthysse.”
Pacquiao, who’ll turn 40 in December, told The Times he wants to return to fight in the U.S. next after being away since a November 2016 victory over Jessie Vargas. Arum said he’s hopeful any issues involving Pacquiao’s tax debt to the IRS will be resolved by then.
Arum handles both of the top candidates for Pacquiao’s next fight: new welterweight champion Terence Crawford and new lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“I don’t have a plan yet, but I can say [Matthysse] is not my last fight. I will fight again,” Pacquiao said.
Asked if he prefers Lomachenko for a bout that likely would be fought at a negotiated weight closer to 140 pounds, or a stiffer test against Crawford, Pacquiao said, “It depends on the negotiation.”
Arum didn’t agree with the contention that Crawford, an unbeaten, three-division champion, would be too much for Pacquiao.
“Crawford is the same size as Manny, too, coming up from 135,” Arum said. “Crawford is not a big welterweight.”
Although Crawford (33-0) is saving an Oct. 13 fight date back home in Omaha, Neb., Arum said Crawford would “forgo” that for the opportunity to fight Pacquiao.
Lomachenko (11-1), also a three-division champion, is recovering from shoulder surgery but expected to be ready to fight by November, Arum said.
Lightweight champion and former Pacquiao sparring partner Ray Beltran, who wants to fight Lomachenko in the late fall should Beltran win an Aug. 25 fight in Arizona, said he would pick Pacquiao to defeat Lomachenko.
“Manny’s bigger. He’s more lethal and dangerous. Lomachenko is technical, but Manny can end it with one punch,” Beltran said.
In Saturday’s bout, Pacquiao proved that by first dropping Matthysse with a third-round uppercut and again with a combination late in the fifth before finishing him with the uppercut in the seventh that brought the knockout specialist to his knees, reduced to spitting out his mouthpiece as Pacquiao raced to a corner and raised both arms standing atop the ropes.
“To be fighting Manny Pacquiao,” Matthysse answered when a ring interviewer asked what the most difficult part of the bout was. “He’s a great fighter. I lost to a great legend.”
Pacquiao said he was thankful for the “good job” his longtime assistant trainer, Buboy Fernandez, did in leading training camp.
“I just worked hard, focused and I got back to the style of before. My style was to pressure him and counter and throw the hard punches for a knockout with care, but not rush it,” Pacquiao said.
Matthysse didn’t appear to pose the same threat as the aggressive slugger who battled John Molina Jr. in the 2014 fight of the year.
“In baseball, a guy hits three home runs and wins a game. Do you say, ‘Well, maybe the pitcher was [bad]?’” Arum asked. “All I took away from that fight is that Manny looked great.”