Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today Sports
- Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring on Saturday as a -215 favorite against Lucas Matthysse.
- Pacquiao has been less than an impressive in his last few fights, but the fight's location should give him a boost.
- Even with the "home-ring advantage" the odds don't add up and there is value on the Argentinian.
Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao is still trudging along. The future Hall of Famer is in action this Saturday Night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+) against Lucas Martin Matthysse. It will be the 69th professional bout of Pacquiao’s illustrious career. The fight is set to take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which obviously gives Pac Man a “home-field advantage” if you believe in those sorts of things.
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) comes into the fight with six wins in his last 10 fights, although you could argue that he was unfortunate not to get the win in two of those bouts (Jeff Horn last summer and Timothy Bradley in 2012). Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) also comes in on the downside of the mountain, although he’s won two bouts in a row following his shocking KO loss to Viktor Postol in October 2015. — Michael Leboff
Unsurprisingly, Pacquiao is the odds-on favorite and is priced at -215 with La Maquina coming back as a +175 underdog. The over/under is set at 10.5 rounds, but the over is juiced at -300. — Michael Leboff
Pacquiao is at an interesting point in his career. This time eight years ago, the 31-year-old was at the height of his powers and easily the best pound-for-pound fighter in his sport. His speed and output was the stuff of legend. In his two fights in 2010 he threw 95.8 punches per round and landed 30 per round according to CompuBox.
There have been bright moments since, but those numbers are down to 48.8 thrown and 15.8 per round. Getting into politics in 2010 probably didn’t help. In hindsight, Pac Man’s career should have ended after he fought Timothy Bradley for the third time — or after his $100 million payday in a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. But boxing is a sport where too many greats stick around too long.
Just look at Pacquiao’s last fight against Jeff Horn. The Pacquiao of old would have to closed out a fighter who the referee was about to put out of his misery. Personally, I gave up on the idea that Pacquiao would have a late-career resurgence a while ago. Save for Mayweather, most of the greats don’t go out on top. — Malik Smith
If you love slugfests, Lucas Martin Matthysse should be on your list. The dude fancies himself a brawl. Matthysse’s game is pretty simple: He’s a knockout-hunter who trusts the power in his gloves to get the job done.
Although he never was able to take the proverbial next step in his prime — losing split-decisions to Zab Judah, Devon Alexander and a unanimous decision to Danny Garcia — Matthysse holds impressive wins over fighters in the “gatekeeper” tier. Two of those fights, a 2014 KO against John Molina Jr. and a 2015 majority decision over Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov were all-time slugfests and ended up on “Fight of the Year” lists.
It was jarring to see Matthysse go down against Postol. “The Iceman” is a decent boxer and has funk in his game, but the fact that he handed “La Maquina” his first KO loss was a huge surprise.
After an 18-month hiatus, Matthysse returned to the ring with a win over also-ran Emmanuel Taylor. He followed that up with a knockout over then undefeated Tewa Kiram. It’s hard to judge just how much is left in his tank, but seeing him floor Kiram is an encouraging sign and enough to think the Argentinian may have caught a second wind. — Michael Leboff
The one thing that worries me about my pick is the circumstances of this fight. It is taking place in Malaysia and the whole place will behind Pacquiao, which could lend itself to some interesting judging. Boxing is a circus, and the odds don’t quite add up with this fight.
Aside from peculiarities, it’s hard to argue against the value being on the Argentinian. Pacquiao was certainly jobbed against Horn last year, but the fact that he even let that fight get to the table shows us the caliber of fighter he is at this point. He used to be able to win fights in a variety of ways, but now it’s decision or bust for the 39-year-old, whose last stoppage came in 2009.
Matthysse, on the other hand, remains dangerous. He may not be able to trade haymakers like he did back in 2014 and 2015, but he won’t need to in this one. It’s hard to imagine Pacquiao being able to close the curtains, and that should give “La Maquina” confidence to move forward and take a few risks, which makes him a very live underdog.
The odds suggest Pacquiao has a ~65.6% chance of winning, which is absurdly high. I think Matthysse has plenty of value and would have taken him at plus-anything. I’m picking Matthysse at +175. — Michael Leboff (Boxing Record: 10-4-1, +18.75 units)