Manny Pacquiao will attempt to win the WBA welterweight title when he faces Lucas Matthysse on Sunday, July 15 (Saturday, July 14 in U.S.), at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
However, Argentinian Matthysse can edge a close fight if he avoids a slow start against his more decorated opponent.
There had been doubts about whether the fight would even take place, but Pacquiao sought to quell any worries by telling Philboxing's Aquiles Z. Zonio (h/t ABS-CBN News) delays over payments have been resolved by Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, as well as representatives of the champion.
It means the man who last fought 378 days prior to the bout—the longest layoff of his career, per ESPN Stats & Info—will challenge a champion with 36 knockouts to his credit.
Start Time: 11:30 p.m. ET (Saturday in U.S.), 4:30 a.m. BST (Sunday in UK)
Ticket Information: Stubhub.com.
Pacquiao is almost 39, four years senior to Matthysse, but has been undergoing a rigorous training regime to prepare for what is being billed as the "Fight of Champions" card.
Supporters of Pacquiao will be glad to hear trainer Buboy Fernandez talking up his fighter's condition to the Inquirer, (h/t BoxingScene.com): "I would say he is already 85 percent ready but we don't want him to peak too soon."
Pacquiao has been showing off his hand speed recently:
Fernandez will know the onus is on Pacquiao, who hasn't been in the ring since his hotly disputed loss by unanimous decision against Jeff Horn in 2017.
Regardless of the decision, the outcome continued a mediocre run for Pacquiao, who has lost four of his last 10 bouts, per Luke Chillingsworth of The Sun.
Horn's victory may have been a controversial one, but the Australian still landed some telling shots during the bout, with ESPN.com's Dan Rafael noting how Horn "spent the fight bulling forward and trying to smother the faster Pacquiao."
The description is an apt one since Matthysse is a power puncher who leans on a long jab and gets underneath an opponent with hooks.
His short left hook and straight, overhand right should give Pacquiao problems, particularly if the latter's feet aren't as quick as they used to be.
Scorecard Predictions: Matthysse via Unanimous Decision, 115-112, 117-113, 116-110