July 23, 2018, 12:01 am
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Pacquio upbeat, Matthysse confident

ONE is craving greater recognition while the other is seeking redemption to regain a semblance of his once feared reputation.

These undoubtedly were in the minds of Argentine defending World Boxing Association welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse and Filipino challenger Manny Pacquiao, who were cordial and civil to each other in a press conference yesterday at the Le Meridien Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Matthysse defends the championship he won by knocking out Thailand’s Tewa Kiram last January at the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles when he slugs it out with Pacquiao this Sunday at the 15,000-capacity Axiata Arena inside the country’s National Sports Complex on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital.

“Pacquiao is a great fighter, but he has’t faced the ‘The Machine’ yet,” the Argentine champ said through an interpreter, referring to his moniker ‘La Maquina.’

“I’m honored to face him but I am here to defend my title. I am doing this not only for my country but also for me. This is why I worked hard for this fight,” he added.

“He is an aggressive fighter and there will be a lot of action in the ring. I want to make our fans happy on Sunday. I am motivated. I am happy. I am hungry. I am excited to show the world a new Manny Pacquiao on July 15 (July 14 in the US),” Pacquiao said.

Helping hype up the fight at the press briefing was Golden Boy Promotions boss Oscar dela Hoya, who promotes Matthysse. He praised Pacquiao because “he has become one of the most important legends of boxing, and outside the ring as well, by building bridges between countries and attracting youths to become fighters.

“Matthysse is a dangerous fighter. So you will see two fighters giving their best,” Dela Hoya added.

Pacman will return to the ring exactly a year and eight days since losing his World Boxing Organization welterweight title via a controversial unanimous decision to heavy Aussie underdog Jeff Horn at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. 

It took a pretty penny to lure Matthysse to stake his crown against Pacquiao and headline the card “Fight of Champions” in what is the first major production of MP Promotions, the outfit of the fighting lawmaker.

Contrary to what was reported earlier, reliable sources told Malaya-Business Insight that the boxing spectacle is fully bankrolled by Filipino investors, among them Pacquiao’s longtime friend and patron, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson.

Singson poured in $12 million (roughly P636 million) in the country’s staging of the 2016 Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena, and is a major partner in the ring production.

The same source said that Matthysse is getting a huge payday to the tune of $5 million (P265 million) in facing Pacquiao, who is taking a huge gamble against a noted brawler sporting a record of 39 wins, 36 by knockout, against four losses.

At 35, the reigning WBA welterweight champion is four years younger than Pacquiao, who has checkered record of 59 wins (38 KOS), seven losses and two draws.  

All off Matthysse’s four losses to Viktor Postol, Danny Garcia, Devon Alexander and Zab Judah were against southpaws like Pacquiao.

Veteran boxing promoter Rex “Wakee” Salud, who once handled world super flyweight champion Gerry Penalosa, noted that Matthysse was a “made-to-order” opponent for the former eight-division champ.

“Sugod ng sugod (si Matthysse), gusto ni Manny ng ganyang kalaban,” Salud pointed out. “At medyo mabagal na rin.” 

Unlike in his setback to Horn where he had to juggle his workouts with his senatorial duties, Pacquiao is coming off two months of intensive training in his hometown of General Santos City. He arrived at the Malaysian capital last Monday.

His chief corner man will be his longtime friend Buboy Fernandez, an assistant to American trainer Freddie Roach in his previous fights.

“I want Matthysse to initiate action and we will counter,” Fernandez was quoted as saying of their basic game plan against the Argentine.

The official weigh-in, which will be open to the public for free, will be held tomorrow at 8 a.m. at the sprawling Malaysia International Trade and Exhbition Center, one of the venues for the Malaysia Southeast Asian Games last year. 
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