Our man on the ground in Asia this weekend, Dave Johnson, describes what he saw at the Pacquiao vs Matthysse Malaysia event.
The acoustics were dreadful, the internet connection weaving in and out of existence, and surprisingly, there only seemed to be only two concession stands in an arena designed to hold 16,000 spectators.
All signs indicative of a city that needs some practice when it comes to sport on the world’s stage.
Nevertheless, the sparsely populated yet overwhelmingly pro-Pacquaio crowd in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, went off without a hitch on a Sunday morning local time.
The intensity of the sun shimmering off the sheen steel of the Axiata Arena did nothing to temper the frenzy of the crowd anxious to see their hero.
The fans saw their man, future hall of famer Filipino Manny Pacquaio, roar back from the nadir of a controversial and ugly defeat to awkward Australian Jeff Horn, and departing from long time trainer Freddie Roach.
These items, combined with Pacquaio’s age of 39, and his irons in the fire of the Filipino government as a sitting senator, led many to wonder how much does the boxer from General Santos have left?
Speaking with spectators within Axiata’s unadorned concrete walls, some expressed that taking on the pulverizing Argentinian Lucas Matthysse would have been the final straw, completing a terrible tradition many prize-fighters seem to pursue in taking one fight too many.
There wouldn’t be that today it would seem, as many claim they saw the same Pacquaio that looked nearly unbeatable against Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya, with the Matthysse stoppage his first since 2009.
Matthysse landed some glancing shots at best, only really landing clean with jabs to Manny’s chin.
In retrospect, Matthysse seemed to have some good blueprints when facing an older fighter.
His guard was up, he kept moving, keeping Manny moving from the inside to the outside and let him keep punching.
Let the older fighter use his legs, punch out, expend energy, and exhaust himself. That’s what many would do in a situation like this.
Well, there was a problem, and the old adage, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” comes to mind, as Pacquaio had split Matthysee’s guard in the third round with an uppercut, for the first of what would be three knockdowns over the course of seven rounds to secure a Pacquiao victory.
It should have been clear that Pacman wasn’t going to tire out.
In Matthysee’s corner, there was no contingency.
The disparity of skills grew more evident as Matthysse, looking to make up for his knock-downs, became more desperate.
No head movement, wild swinging, and the fouls: the head clashing, clinching and obvious low blow, which he was warned but not penalized for (normal by the way), culminating in the final knockdown by Pacquaio and referee Kenny Bayless calling off the contest at the end of the seventh round.
Now that spotlight of skepticism swings towards Matthysse. He’s a terrific fighter.
There’s plenty to reinforce why some thought the lights were going on a legend in Kuala Lumpur. However, boxing fans will now wonder, was it the eye-injury against Viktor Postol defeat in 2015?
Was it the Pyrrhic victory Lucas won against fan favorite pressure fighter Ruslan Provodnikov which left both combatants brutalized?
Hopefully Matthysse can use these ashes to fertilize a revival of his own.
He may not have skills of the hall of famer who bested him tonight, but anything is possible as with those heavy hands, and a willingness to admit and press forward.
It was a boisterous crowd on a bright day.
An audience who cheered even their favored fighters’ opposition and applauded their anthems were treated to a good show which cocooned the main event both before and after.
Fellow Filipino Jhack Tepora scored a knockout of his own in the ninth round to secure the interim WBA Featherweight title.
Moruti Mthalane of South Africa attained a hard-fought, tooth-and-nail victory against Pakistani Muhammed Waseeem for the vacant IBF Flyweight championship.
The day’s only sad point was when Chinese boxer Lu Bin was KO’d in the last seconds of his match against WBA (regular) Junior Flyweight titlist Carlos Canizales of Venezuela.
Bin was attempting to become the fastest fight ever to win a championship at two bouts.
He had returned to his feet but was carried out on a stretcher with oxygen, and was rushed to the hospital.
Malaysia was wonderful.
Hopefully Kuala Lumpur gets more practice in the boxing business.
It wouldn’t trouble me at all to give them a second try.