By: Sean Crose
They were the hottest team in all of boxing. The Filipino legend, and the former pro from working class Massachusetts. The ailing mentor and his explosive protege. Yes, Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach made for quite the duo for a very long period of time. Determined to make it in the sport of boxing, Pacquiao traveled across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, where Roach found an oversize diamond in the rough. The rest, as they say, is history. Countless titles. Countless wars. Explosive finishes. And money, tons and tons of money. Now, though, the relationship between the aging great, Pacquiao, and his longtime trainer, Roach, is over – at least temporarily.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Twitter Account
This weekend, those who are willing to pay money for the pleasure of ESPNs streaming service, ESPN+, will be able to watch Pacquiao face off against fellow aging fighter Lucas Matthysse of Argentina. As Yahoo’s Kevin Iole puts it, the bout will “likely will be seen by far fewer than 100,000 viewers in the U.S. ESPN has no places to release subscriber numbers for ESPN+, or viewership of any particular event.” The fight, which is going down in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was supposed to be on pay per view, but money problems prevented that from happening. No doubt the ratings would be huge if Pacquiao and Matthysse battled on regular ESPN, but the days of such things may be over. After making a celebrated agreement to showcase boxing on regular cable, promoter Bob Arum and ESPN have apparently decided fans are going to pay to see the big names once again (the impressive, and it is impressive, ESPN+ only runs about five bucks a month – for now).
Times have indeed changed. This might be most clearly evident in the absence of Roach from this event. It will be strange not seeing the man in Pacquiao’s corner, offering advice to his prized fighter while refusing to let Parkinson’s disease keep him from plying his own trade. Rather than having Roach in his corner right now, Pacquiao has placed his long time sidekick, Buboy Frenandez, in the general’s slot. The results of this pairing may be interesting, for the truth is that reports of Pacquiao’s complete collapse as a top fighter might have been greatly exaggerated over the past few years. On top of that, Matthysse has been on a bit of a comeback as of late and is rightfully known as a warrior in the ring. Will Buboy deliver if things get searing? Or has Pacquiao more or less decided to be his own cornerman, a combination fighter/trainer, who only needs people to offer him water and cut treatment if need be?
What’s perhaps most jarring about all this is the fact that Pacquiao seems – on the surface of things – to have been rather cold to Roach, his ailing former mentor. Roach reportedly was never informed by Pacquiao of Pacquiao’s decision. It just happened. Word is Manny was unhappy with Roach, but no one really knows what the truth is. The one reality, it seems, is that professional courtesy was not involved with Pacquiao’s decision to move on sans Roach for the Matthysse fight. For what it’s worth, Pacquiao says he might employ Roach again. Pacquiao’s career has taken a strange turn, however, and it’s unclear how many fights he has left. He’s a senator in his homeland, and he’s not getting any younger.
As for Matthysse – he probably couldn’t have hoped for a better match. The man was high on the lists of many analysts until he got bested by Philly’s Danny Garcia in 2013. Then, several years later, he was beaten soundly by the skilled Ukrainian Viktor Postol. He took some time off, and has since returned with two wins, his last one being a knockout of undefeated Tewa Kiram in January. He’s an exciting fighter, Matthysse, one who may make things exciting when he faces Pacquiao, whose last bout was a highly controversial loss to hometown hero Jess Horn in Brisbane, Austrailia last summer.
Pacquiao (59-7-2) will be facing Matthysse (39-4-0) for Matthysse’s version of a WBA welterweight title when the opening bell rings on Saturday night. The ESPN+ broadcast begins at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time.