World welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse saluted Manny Pacquiao on Thursday but vowed to beat the Filipino boxing legend when they square off on Sunday.
“He is a great champion but he still hasn’t faced ‘The Machine’,” Argentina’s Matthysse told reporters at a packed press conference in Kuala Lumpur ahead of their WBA title clash.
“If he decides to retire after I beat him then that is his decision, I am here to defend my title.”
Veteran Pacquiao, who is chasing a 60th win of his long career, will turn 40 in December and has not fought since losing his WBO welterweight belt to Australia’s Jeff Horn in Brisbane a year ago.
Knock-out specialist Matthysse has finished 36 of his 39 wins inside the distance and won the vacant WBA belt after an eighth-round stoppage of Thailand’s Teerachai Sithmorseng in January.
His action-packed style, said Pacquiao, was one of the reasons the fight attracted him.
“When I saw his fight against Teerachai it was a good fight,” said the Filipino, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions in more than 20 years as a professional fighter.
“I believe we can create good action in the ring so the fans will be happy.” Pacquiao was thrown out of kilter by Horn’s rough-house tactics a year ago and the Filipino’s conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, said they had prepared for similar from the aggressive Argentine.
– ‘He punches a lot harder’ –
“This guy Matthysse is a lot better than Jeff Horn, he punches a lot harder,” Australian Fortune, a former heavyweight who once fought Lennox Lewis, told AFP.
“We are expecting the same sort of methods as Horn,” added Fortune, who said the appointment of experienced American referee Kenny Bayless would ensure Matthysse couldn’t get away with anything illegal.
“He’s a very fair ref and he won’t stand for any head butts, any elbows, anything like that,” said Fortune.
And Matthysse’s trainer Joel Diaz hit back at accusations that his fighter was only in Asia to pick up a big pay day.
“We got everything ready to go. Lucas Matthysse is not here for a paycheck he is here to take his title back to his people,” said Diaz of his fighter who has a 39-4 record.
Matthysse’s last defeat came against Ukrainian Viktor Postol for a WBC super lightweight world title fight in October 2015.
“It cost us 14 years of hard work for Lucas to be a champion. He is not going to come here and give up his belt.” Now in the twilight of a 23-year professional career, Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) has not stopped an opponent for nine years as he juggles his boxing career with being an elected senator.
Pacquiao, who is idolised by tens of millions in the Philippines, defied calls to retire after the Horn defeat, but said in May that his performance in Sunday’s fight could well determine his future in the ring. (PTI)