By Sally Fahey
Manny Pacquiao put on a dominant display to stun the defending champion Lucas Matthysse with a seventh-round knockout and claim the World Boxing Association welterweight title.
Pacquiao, the 39-year-old boxing legend from the Philippines, looked focused and busy from the opening bell at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He had the 15,000 fans there on their feet when he sent his Argentine opponent to the canvas three times with an array of clubbing blows.
The southpaw dropped his opponent for the final time with a brutal uppercut. The win, Pacquiao’s first inside the distance since 2009, improved the eight-division world champion’s record to 60-7-2.
“I’m surprised. Matthysse is a very tough opponent,” Pacquiao said in an interview after the fight, in which he showed glimpses of the spectacular form that catapulted him to the top of global boxing over a decade ago.
“I knocked him down, and that’s a bonus for being patient in the fight, and working hard in training,” he said.
Pacquiao set the pace early, looking for openings and moving menacingly around the ring as he dropped Matthysse for a first time in the third round with an uppercut after a flurry of punches put the Argentine on the defensive.
Unable to gain a foothold against Pacquiao’s attacks, Matthysse (39-5-1) looked to land on the counter but was forced to take a knee toward the end of the fifth round when he was visibly shaken by a right hook to the temple.
The referee, Kenny Bayless, called off the fight after two minutes and 43 seconds of the seventh round when Matthysse buckled after receiving another stiff uppercut and spat out his mouthguard.
Pacquiao’s win, in his first bout since losing the W.B.O. welterweight title to the unheralded Australian Jeff Horn a year ago, gives Pacquiao his 11th world title in a career that has made him a national hero in the Philippines.