A little more than a year since his last fight, Manny Pacquiao will return to the ring to challenge secondary welterweight world titleholder Lucas Matthysse on July 14 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both sides said Monday night.
"Signed, sealed, and delivered: Proud to officially announce that WBA welterweight world champion Lucas Matthysse will put his title on the line against Manny Pacquiao in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday night July 14 (U.S. time)," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Matthysse, wrote on his social media.
Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz told ESPN that the kickoff news conference to announce the fight is scheduled for April 18 in Manila in Pacquiao's home country of the Philippines, with another scheduled for April 20 in Kuala Lumpur.
Pacquiao will go into the fight without his longtime trainer, International Boxing Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, overseeing his camp or corner. Koncz said Pacquiao has replaced Roach with Buboy Fernandez, Pacquiao's lifelong friend and the career-long assistant trainer who has been with him for every fight.
"That's Manny's decision. Manny has told me Buboy will be handling the training on this fight," Koncz said. "What's important to Manny is that he has one voice to listen to in the corner that he trusts, and I guess that's Buboy for this fight."
Pacquiao had been with Roach since he came to the United States to fight for the first time in 2001. Together they reached glorious heights and forged a seemingly unbreakable bond. Roach has trained Pacquiao for his past 34 fights.
Asked about the reason Pacquiao decided to make a change -- without notifying Roach -- Koncz said, "There was some concerns Manny had in the last fight and some statements Freddie made to the media that Manny wasn't very pleased about."
Although Pacquiao's longtime promoter, Top Rank, is not promoting the event -- that will be handled by Pacquiao's MP Promotions -- Bob Arum's company will handle the television distribution of the fight. That distribution will include an ESPN platform to be determined in the United States, be it ESPN, the new ESPN+ streaming service or pay-per-view. Because of the 12-hour time difference between Malaysia and the United States East Coast, the fight will take place on Sunday morning, July 15, Kuala Lumpur time for a prime-time broadcast in the U.S., Koncz said.
That is the same setup that took place when Pacquiao lost his version of the welterweight world title by highly controversial decision to Jeff Horn on July 2 in Horn's hometown of Brisbane, Australia.
"We are very pleased and privileged that ESPN will be part of this fight because of the tremendous viewing audience we had for the Australian fight," Koncz said.
In the first fight of the Top Rank/ESPN partnership, the Pacquiao-Horn telecast averaged more than 3 million viewers, and the main event peaked at 4.4 million viewers.
Koncz declined to discuss Pacquiao's promotional status with Top Rank, with whom there has been an apparent fracture, but he said they would work together on this fight and, hopefully, on another fight in the fall.
"We're working together on this fight," Koncz said. "They've done good for us for a long time, and we've done good for them for a long time. So we're working with them on this fight. We don't have any disputes with Top Rank. Hopefully, this fight with Matthysse is a big success and Manny is victorious, and then we can see if we can do a fight with [Vasiliy] Lomachenko with Top Rank in the fall."
Pound-for-pound king Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), the junior lightweight world champion, is moving up to lightweight to challenge Jorge Linares for his title on May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York on ESPN. Wins by Lomachenko and Pacquiao could lead to a fight this fall at a catchweight.
"[Arum] is invited [to the fight], and there's no problem," Pacquiao recently told reporters in the Philippines. "I think after my fight with Matthysse, we will talk regarding the possible Pacquiao-Lomachenko fight in the future. That is a good fight because he is a champion, and I'll be challenged to become a champion again. At the same time, I don't want the people to say that [the fight with Matthysse is] just a tune-up fight."
The match figures to lend itself to action because of Matthysse's come-forward, aggressive style. Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs), 35, a big puncher from Argentina, claimed a vacant secondary welterweight title on Jan. 27 with an eighth-round knockout of Tewa Kiram, a little-known fighter from Thailand.
Arum told ESPN last month that an investment group was interested in bringing a Pacquiao fight to Malaysia and was willing to put up $15 million, with $5 million up front. Koncz declined to discuss the financial terms of the deal but said the fight was going forward.
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), 39, a senator in the Philippines, is boxing's only eight-division world champion and decided to continue his boxing career after considering retirement following the fight with Horn. Koncz said the fight with Matthysse, originally discussed for June, is taking place at a time when the senate in the Philippines is in recess, allowing Pacquiao time to train and fight.
"We had to schedule this fight so the senate wasn't in session and wouldn't interfere with Manny's training," Koncz said.