Kuala Lumpur: Young-again Manny Pacquiao was in ebullient form on Sunday after he leapt back into the global boxing spotlight with a seven-round knockout of WBA welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse.
Pacquiao will be 40 in December but was beaming as he told reporters afterwards: “Do I look 39?
“At 39 years old, I’m still OK, I’m still fine. When you see me in training, you can tell I’m like 28, 27 years old,” Pacquiao said.
“You cannot say I’m 39 years old! You can say I’m 28, 27 years old.”
Pacquiao certainly seemed to have been drinking from the fountain of youth as his speed, agility, lightning quick movements and punching power magically returned from the first bell to overwhelm the 35-year-old Argentine.
It was a stark contrast to the flat, lacklustre Pacquiao who had lost his title on points in an ugly brawl with Australian journeyman Jeff Horn a year ago.
Much of the credit for the 60th victory of his legendary career can be laid at the door of conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who said before the fight that “the old Pacquiao” was back thanks to a new training programme.
“We changed things up this time,” said Fortune. “We did a whole bunch of different work. We were shocking his system back into working.
“It’s a different style of training — shorter, faster and more intense. So his body reacts differently. So that’s why he looks like the old Pacquiao.”
Pacquiao, who Fortune said had been initially stubborn to change his ways, acknowledged that the new training regime had paid off.
“This is true,” said Pacquiao. “This training is very special. Because basically my team told me to stop training (too much).”
Pacquiao knocked down the Argentine as early as the third round with a stunning left upper cut that thudded around the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.
The 35-year-old Matthysse, who came in with a reputation as a big puncher, had no answer to Pacquiao’s blistering speed and he dropped to his knee at the end of the fifth round for a count after being visibly shaken by a barrage including a left to the temple.
And referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight giving Pacquiao victory by TKO (technical knockout) after 2min 43sec of the seventh when Matthysse sank to his knees following a fierce right-left combination.
It was Pacquiao’s 39th KO win of his fabled 23-year career but his first since he beat Miguel Cotto in November 2009, almost nine years ago.
“He’s a great fighter,” said Matthysse whose win-loss record fell to 39-5 (36 KOs).
“He’s a great champion. You win some, and you lose some. Today was my turn to lose, but I lost to a great fighter and a great legend in Manny Pacquiao. I lost, but I walk away with my head raised.”