In recent memory the Welterweight division has been one of the most significant divisions to the sport, with huge super fights and some of the sports most popular fighters competing in the division. Right now it's still an important division but does seem to be waiting for it's next super fight. Fighters like Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Terence Crawford all look like they are going to be part of the the next generation of divisional super fights, yet none are currently looking like they are set to clash, at least not for now.
With the new generation coming through we're at an interesting position in the division with two veterans set to face off this coming Sunday with WBA champion Lucas Martin Matthysse (39-4-0-1, 36) defending his title against Filipino boxing idol Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38) in Kuala Lumpur. Both have looked like they are a long way removed from their best, with their last outings showing them to be shadows of their former selves. Matthysse was last seen in the ring defeating Teerachai Kratingdaenggym for the title back in January, but had struggled before pulling out an 8th round KO of the Thai. Pacquiao on the other hand hasn't fought since his controversial loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017. Added to their poor recent performances are their ages, with Pacquiao 39 years old, 40 in December, and Matthysse being 35, 36 in September. Neither man is a youngster, both have looked poor, and both will know that anything but a win here will likely end their career's.
Of the two men it's certainly Pacquiao who has had the more distinguished career. The Filipino Southpaw has been one of the few fighters to transcend the sport and is seen as not only a boxing icon but a key Filipino figure and a key sporting figure. He has turned his boxing success into a political career in his homeland and is well known for his charitable work outside of the ring. Inside the ring he was, arguably, the most destructive man in the sport for over a decade starting in 1998, when he stopped Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC Flyweight title right through to 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto for the WBO Welterweight title.
At his very best Pacquiao was an aggressive, fast, combination punching Phenom with brutal power in his left hand, and explosive quickness. Sadly Pacquiao of the last few years has lost a lot of what made him special. His intensity and energy are gone, the fire seems to be going out, and at 39 there is real question marks regarding what he still has left in the tank. Even when he has dominated fighters, like Jessie Vargas, Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios, there hasn't quite been the same desire in his eyes as there was during his peak. Given his inactivity and age there is real questions as to whether he can even show glimpses of his old self.
Matthysse was, for a long time, one of the best active fighters to never win a proper world title. Between 2010 and 2014 he went from being an obscure Argentinian fighter in his homeland to being recognised as a leading Light Welterweight. He did that by travelling to the US and facing the likes of Zab Judah, Devon Alexander, Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. Whilst he would pick up some losses during that run, including very controversial ones to Judah and Alexander, he had proven he belong in the mix and claimed the WBC interim title along the way. He had also made fans, his exciting, power based style, made him an almost instant fan favourite and later wars with John Molina and Ruslan Provodnikov were both sensational action bouts.
Sadly for Matthysse a loss to Viktor Postol in 2017 caused Matthysse career to stall as he suffered a serious eye injury and would be out of the ring for over a year. Since then he has scored wins over Emmanuel Taylor and Teerachai, but looked a shadow of himself against the Thai, who made Matthysse look old, clumsy and slow.
This isn't so much of a super fight between two notable veterans with exciting styles. It's more of a retirement bout in our eyes, with the loser literally having no where to go. The winner will have a bargaining chip for another big fight down the line. But even then it's unlikely they'll manage to pick up another notable win, given how poor they looked last time out. We suspect Pacquiao's inactivity and age will be his downfall here, but given how poor Matthyse looked against Teerachai there is a good chance that Pacquiao will use what's left of his speed to pick up one more huge win for his legacy.
One of the big boxing revelations of 2017 was Thai power puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who made his US debut and took a close decision over Roman Gonzalez for the WBC Super Flyweight title. The Thai then went back to the US and scored a second win over Gonzalez, knocking out the Nicaraguan great to really prove his first win wasn't a fluke. This coming weekend we see another Thai make his US debut with the hopes of breaking out from obscurity and beating a recognisable name from Latin America.
The Thai in question is Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (38-0, 28), a rare Thai who fights at Welterweight. Despite his long unbeaten record he hasn't really made a mark of any kind outside of Asia, though is a fighter who has been in more than 30 PABA title fights and has certainly made a mark on the regional scene. Despite being a fixture on the Pacific and Asian boxing scenes he is a total known compared to his upcoming foe, hard hitting Argentinian star Lucas Martin Matthysse (38-4-0-1, 35), who has fought numerous bouts in the US during his exciting career.
Although unknown in the West Teerachai has been scoring notable C tier wins during his career, which began just over 10 years ago. These have included wins over Dan Nazareno Jr, Romeo Jakosalem, Randy Suico, Larry Siwu, and Vladimir Baez. None of those would be fit to test Matthysse, but in reality they are far from bad fighters, with Suico and Jakosalem being former OPBF champions and Baez now set for a Japanese title fight. The gap between them and Matthysse is huge, but they are decent wins for a rising contender, like Teerachai has been.
Teerachai has looked like a talented, but flawed, fighter coming through the ranks. He has appeared to depend a lot on his size and physical strength at times but can box, and his KO win against Baez showed that Teerachai can cope with very aggressive fighters and can counter that aggression well. His finishing shot against Baez was an absolute peach of a right hand, but he had also used a measured and stiff jab to keep Baez at range. That jab will have to be a key if he's to defeat the naturally smaller Matthysse,, but landing it on a world class fighter will be a million miles harder than it's been at the regional level.
Although a notable name now a days Matthysse was a relative unknown outside of Argentina early in his career. For some it wasn't until his controversial 2010 loss to Zab Judah that he managed to make a mark on the sport, with his even more controversial loss the following year to Devon Alexander really establishing him as being one to watch. Wins over Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Mike Dallas Jr and Lamont Peterson all showed that Matthysse was a definitive world class fighter, and despite a loss to Danny Garcia he has remained a fixture at world level, despite a stoppage loss in 2015 to Viktor Postol.
In the ring Matthysse is a viciously hard hitting fighter. He's tough, spiteful with his punches but can genuinely box rather well. He has often been regarded as crude and a slugger, but the reality is that he's a very solid boxer, who is just blessed with brutal power. Sadly he is now 35 with just 5 rounds under his belt in the last 2 years and is naturally quite a small fighter at 147lbs, despite being a huge puncher. Physically he's not much taller, or rangier, than Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and whilst he is very powerful it was clear that he can struggle with tall rangy fighters, as he did against Postol.
The Argentinian is the clear favourite. He's the more proven fighter, the more well known man and the one with the power. Though as we saw last year there is a gritty determination among Thai fighters, which sees them take a chance when offered one.
We're expecting to see Teerachai make the most of this huge opportunity and look to establish his jab, keep Matthysse at range and frustrate the ageing Argentinian. Matthysse at his best almost certainly sees off Teerachai within 5 or 6 rounds. But this version of Matthysse is 10 years older than Teerachai, has had wear and tear from bouts with Postol, Rusklan Provodnikov, John Molina Jr, Danny Garcia, Humberto Soto and many more others. We're going on on the limb and predicting the upset here, with a shock win for Teerachai.
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