Manny Pacquiao's promoter disputes claim that he's facing Lucas Matthysse in June
Top Rank's Bob Arum skeptical of Malaysian investor and mentioned possible different opponent
When it comes to the in-ring return of Filipino icon and eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, the truth regarding the details ultimately comes down to who you believe.
Pacquiao, 39, recently shot down promoter Top Rank's hopes of matching him against faded welterweight Mike Alvarado on the possible pay-per-view undercard of the Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford bout for the 147-pound title "PacMan" lost to Horn last July by disputed decision.
On Thursday, Pacquiao's information director in the Philippines, Aquiles Zonio, sent a press release to announce Pacquiao's MP Promotions had agreed to co-promote a June 24 card in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (June 23 in the United States), against secondary welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse.
Despite Pacquiao's claim that the fight would be officially announced at a March 22 news conference in Kuala Lumpur, with press tours to follow in major Asian cities like Beijing, Tokyo, Macau and Hong Kong, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum says not so fast.
Arum, whose company was conveniently not mentioned in the press release, told BoxingScene.com on Thursday that the finalized bout is "not true."
Although Arum confirmed that Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs), who is promoted by Golden Boy, was in the running for the fight, he mentioned Jose Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs) was just as likely, especially if the Top Rank fighter defeats Amir Imam for the WBC 140-pound title on March 17.
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"[Pacquiao's team] is hoping to do a deal in Malaysia," Arum said. "I haven't been handling that deal. They've been handling that deal themselves. Hopefully the money, in the form of a deposit, turns up. Matthysse is one of the guys that Manny is thinking about fighting. There are others. For example, if Jose Ramirez wins the 140-pound title, Manny might fight him for that title. That part is up in the air."
From Arum's perspective, the key part of this deal is whether the money promised Pacquiao to bring the fight to Malaysia is real. Pacquiao and Arum have been down this road before in recent years, including multiple offers to fight Amir Khan in the Middle East for outrageous sums that Arum scoffed at out of skepticism and Pacquiao's team talked about as if they were fact despite the fight never taking place.
"The Malaysia part is up in the air. I don't know these Malaysian people," Arum said. "If they put up the money, it'll happen, happily. But do I know whether the money will be put up? No, I don't. It's as simple as that. It's exactly like usual. The only difference is the action has now moved from the Mideast to Asia. It used to be the Mideast. How many stories were there about [investors in] Abu Dhabi, about Dubai, about Saudi Arabia?
"There is some substance to [this deal]. It is not something to be completely discarded as ridiculous, because it might come to fruition."
Pacquiao's decision to avoid the co-billing opposite Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs), the former undisputed junior welterweight champion who is among the sport's pound-for-pound elite, likely speaks to his disinterest in such a dangerous, passing-of-the-torch fight at this point in his career.
Although Matthysse, 35, stopped unheralded Tewa Kiram in January for the nominal vacant WBA "regular" title, he has slowed down from his once dangerous prime in 2013. Pacquiao, who currently serves as a senator in his home country, believes it would be he, however, who would enter as the underdog.
Regardless of how both fighters have regressed, the fight would be expected to produce nothing but action and would've been a dream fight as recently as three years ago. Pacquiao's last appearance, in the controversial loss to Horn, was a toe-to-toe affair from the beginning while Matthysse has twice authored fight of the year finalists against John Molina Jr. and Ruslan Provodnikov in recent years.
"I like [Matthysse's] aggressive fighting style," Pacquiao said. "That's what I want, to entertain the boxing fans. Besides, Matthysse is not a dirty fighter and I highly respect him for that."
"I know this is going to be a tough fight. Matthysse is also a knockout artist. But I'm excited to fight and be a world champion again. So, expect me to train hard for this fight. I'm the underdog in this fight but I'm used to it. It serves as a big motivation for me to train and fight hard to win the crown."
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