KUALA LUMPUR — Manny Pacquiao made the Filipinos feel like champions once again.
In a performance that he hoped brought honor and pride to the country, Pacquiao on Sunday cut down a hard-punching Lucas Matthysse to win the WBA welterweight championship via technical knockout in the 7th round. (More stories in Sports, Pages A2-1 to A2-3)
It was his 12th world title in record eight weight divisions and something that proved that he still got gas on his tank as his phenomenal career considerably declined through the years.
“I hope I brought a convincing victory and honor to the country,” said Pacquiao, who decked Matthysse for a third time with a left uppercut that forced referee Kenny Bayless to wave off the Argentine champ at 2:43 of the round.
Knocked down twice
Pacquiao knocked down Matthysse twice before, sending some 9,000 spectators at Axiata Arena to their feet.
That included President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who both witnessed the first fight to be held in this nation since Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner clashed in 1975.
“Thank you, Filipino people, thank you, President Duterte,” he said from the ring.
After a solid exchange of punches in the third, Pacquiao unleashed a left uppercut that caught Matthysse squarely, sending him to the canvas while grappling the ropes.
That was enough for the crowd to anticipate a knockout win—something last done by Pacquiao nine years ago when he floored burly Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto.
“From the beginning, in the first round, I knew in my mind that I can control the fight,” Pacquiao said. “But we stayed with the strategy and stayed patient.”
Matthysse refused to yield and in the fourth and fifth rounds leaned on his jabs to fend off Pacquiao, but the Filipino boxing great tagged him with hooks that staggered the champ just before the round ended.
Beating the count
Late in the fifth, Pacquiao fired another left uppercut that forced Matthysse to his knees only to beat the count.
“Matthysse has power also, and you can’t underestimate him,” said Pacquiao. “He throws strong wild rights and uppercuts.”
In the sixth, Pacquiao unleashed combinations while taking fire from the Argentine’s continuous jabbing.
By the seventh, Pacquiao smelled bloodand totally abandoned his plan to counterpunch, throwing shots to the head and body before another left uppercut dropped Matthysse for good.
Frustrated and disheveled, Matthysse hinted at retirement while still in the ring.
‘My time to lose’
“It’s just like any fight, you win and you lose, today is my time to lose,” said the 35-year-old Matthysse, who never had the chance to corner Pacquiao and unleash his vaunted turbo-charged punches.
“Sometimes, you lose and it’s an honor for me to lose to a legend,” he added. “I will go back to my country, my family. Take a break and rest.’
After a training camp that allowed him to recover and not totally “push myself to the limit,” Pacquiao said after the fight that he feels like he’s only 27 years old.
Already, there were talks of him fighting Olympic double champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Even a return fight against fellow megastar Floyd Mayweather Jr. was brought into the conversation.
“First, let’s not disturb Floyd because he’s not in boxing anymore,” said Pacquiao, who reportedly earned $100 million from their superfight in 2015.
“Second, if he wants to return to boxing, we can talk. But if not, there are more opponents out there.”
His purse was kept under wraps as he solely promoted the fight through his MP Promotions, while Matthysse reportedly went home with $2 million.