Manny Pacquiao vs. Lucas Matthysse fight prediction, date, card, odds, preview, expert pick

There will come a day when the legendary career of eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, who turned pro in 1995, will come to an end. The fear, for some, is that the expiration date will be this Saturday.

Pacquiao, who turns 40 in December, gets one more shot at bringing a spotlight on Saturday night when he heads to Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to battle Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) for the WBA's regular welterweight title on ESPN+ after issues and missed deadlines kept it from being on PPV.

What isn't easy to determine on the surface is whether the 35-year-old Matthysse, the beloved Argentine brawler, represents simply an equally faded big name for Pacquaio to outbox or the potential for something worse -- anything from a "trap" opponent to someone capable due to his power of sending "PacMan" unwillingly into retirement. 

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Thoughts of the latter are fueled not just by Pacquiao's age or the fact that he's fresh off a disputed upset loss to Jeff Horn last summer in July. It's more about whether Pacquiao, who by day is a full-time Senator in his native Philippines and owner/player of a professional basketball team, is taking his career as serious as he needs to at such a vulnerable time. 

Although many observers felt Pacquiao (59-7-2) had done enough to defeat Horn despite losing his WBO welterweight title as controversial as he did, there was little question Pacquiao had visibly lost a larger chunk of speed and explosion from his swarming prime. But was it a case of getting old over night for Pacquiao, or simply an awkward style from a hungry opponent who was taken too lightly?

Find out <em>how to watch Saturday night's bout</em> from Malaysia here.

Either way, Horn was successful at closing distance and roughing up Pacquiao (including a cut above his eye that visibly bothered the Filipino icon) in a manner not seen since the last installment of the great rivalry between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. 

Those who fear for Pacquiao entering Saturday point to the rudderless direction of his career in recent years. Due to tax issues in the U.S., Pacquiao has been forced to globe trod in search of big paydays while reportedly generously hemorrhaging money in his personal life along the way. 


Manny Pacquiao -210

Lucas Matthysse (c) +170

Welterweight title

Moruti Mthalane N/AMuhammad Waseem N/AFlyweight title
Juan Miguel Elorde N/A
Rachanon Sawangsoda N/A
Junior lightweight
Theena Thayalan N/A
Siddharth Varma N/A

* Odds via Bovada

For this camp, Pacquiao also chose to train exclusively in the Philippines after cutting ties with Hall of Fame trainer and father figure Freddie Roach in favor of friend and cornerman Buboy Fernandez. What made matters worse publicly was that Pacquiao, who was rumored to be upset at Roach for telling him he should retire after the Horn loss, never told his former coach of the decision and left him to find out through the media. 

Pacquiao also insisted on his fledgling promotional outfit to handle the fight and not Top Rank, which claims it still holds the fighter under contract. But after MP Promotions missed numerous payment deadlines to get the fight on pay-per-view in America, Top Rank acquired the U.S. broadcast rights and moved it to ESPN's streaming platform in the eleventh hour. 

Should Pacquiao enter the fight as unprepared as he looked against Horn, it's no question that Matthysse is the wrong opponent to be facing. Although the former interim 140-pound titleholder has typically lost throughout his career when stepping up to the elite level, he's riding a two-fight win streak following a disappointing stoppage loss to Viktor Postol in 2015 and remains a dangerous puncher with bad intentions. 

Whether or not we end up seeing the Pacquiao of old or simply an old Pacquiao, the potential for action remains high, especially with both fighters operating within the twilight of their respective careers. This is a matchup fans would've went gonzo for just five years ago and one that holds a special footnote since Matthysse was once publicly labeled "the new Manny Pacquiao" by former promoter Richard Schaeffer after his 2013 knockout of Lamont Peterson. 

Fight prediction

Pacquiao's focus level and physical state remain the key intangible as to just how competitive or dangerous this fight will end up being. 

One thing going in Pacquiao's favor is that we have been here before, ready to write him off as an elite fighter after losses to Marquez and Floyd Mayweather, only to see him return as a refined and more cautious boxer. What will be most interesting to see is whether Pacquiao can reinvent himself again, and still retain enough speed and craft to outclass the less refined Matthysse. 

The other factor if you're building a case for Pacquiao would be how much Matthysse has revealed himself, at times, to be a front runner. While he deserves plenty of credit for biting down and outlasting John Molina Jr. and Ruslan Provodnikov in fight-of-the-year caliber brawls, he has equally folded or lost championship focus to adapt when behind in his biggest fights. 

Regardless of which version of Pacquiao shows up, it's likely he's going to have to channel his brawling spirit of old in order to hurt Matthysse should he hope to keep his opponent off of him. But while Matthysse enters as likely the bigger puncher, largely because Pacquiao hasn't recorded a knockout this decade, Pacquiao still excels at landing awkward punches you don't see coming. 

Expect Matthysse to make things uncomfortable and even hurt and knock down Pacquiao. But you can also expect to see PacMan dig in and maybe have to pour out the jar for the kind of final stand that every great fighter seems to produce not long before being forced to call it quits. 

Pick: Pacquiao via TKO10. 

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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