Lucas Matthysse of Argentina falls after receiving a punch from Manny Pacquiao during their world welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday. Inset shows Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad shaking hands with President Duterte, who was accompanied to the boxing match by his son Sebastian.
Return of the King
Lito A. Tacujan (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It’s like hurtling through a time warp and riding back into the glory years. It’s a rebirth of an icon, renewal of faith by the fans and return to the simple but pure joy and all the shining moments the nation has basked in the past.

All because of the decisive high noon victory in Kuala Lumpur by Filipino boxing phenom Manny Pacquiao, dethroning Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse for the WBA (World Boxing Association) welterweight title with a seventh round TKO.

But until Matthysse, kneeling on one knee as the trauma of the third knockdown seized him in the middle of the ring, was counted out by referee Kenny Bayless in the seventh round, a lot of the prizefight diehards wondered whether the man they called the Pacman could pull it off and complete the stoppage.

It’s the best they could concede as a form of compliment to Pacquiao, the carnage of Mexican champs and other pretenders to the crown has long been missing from the list of his fight records. In fact, he hasn’t scored a knockout the past 10 years.

The anger and hunger of his youth and killer instinct that fueled many a knockout win were gone. As if they have deserted the fighter long regarded the “best pound-for-pound” as he got on in years. He is to be 40 come December.

Where was the passion that once stirred the blood, they asked?

Talks of retirement were a pesky presence in the camp of the Filipino champ who lorded it over one time or another in eight weight divisions and drew millions of dollars in gate receipts and pay-per-view sale. He was the hottest, richest commodity of world boxing then.

Even his handlers’ bold come-on that Pacquiao was in sharp form, looking and training like he was “23 years younger” in a face-off with the Argentine who boasts of 36 KOs in 39 bouts were dismissed as part of the pre-fight hype to fan interest in the title bout between two aging prizefighters.

It’s an old constant that nobody could stay long on top of this brutal sport. One is at his best at his prime.

But if you were a living legend like Manny Pacquiao there might be some unseen forces that might help tweak the rule.

It virtually manifested itself Sunday morning in Axiata Arena in KL as Pacman found Father Time in his corner.

 For seven rounds, he fought like the old master of the ring, looking for angles, firing timely volley of blows and punishing the scrappy Matthysse with crippling left uppercuts and knocking him down three times.

 Suddenly, the arena burst in wild cheers, the champ celebrated atop the ring posts as before and over 90 million Filipinos back home roared as one, like in old times, for the king of the ring has returned.

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