KUALA LUMPUR • Manny Pacquiao was in ebullient form yesterday after he leapt back into the global spotlight with a seven-round knockout of World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse.
Pacquiao now looks certain to extend a fabled 23-year boxing career beyond his 40th birthday in December, beaming as he told reporters: "Do I look 39? At 39 years old, I'm still okay, I'm still fine. When you see me in training, you can tell I'm like 27, 28 years old."
The Filipino southpaw certainly seemed to have been drinking from the fountain of youth as his speed, agility, lightning-quick movements and punching power magically returned from the first bell to overwhelm his 35-year-old opponent.
It was a stark contrast to the flat, lacklustre Pacquiao who had lost his title on points in an ugly brawl with Australian Jeff Horn last year.
Pacquiao knocked down Matthysse as early as the third round with a stunning left uppercut that thudded around the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.
Matthysse had no answer to Pacquiao's blistering speed and he dropped to his knee at the end of the fifth round for a count after being visibly shaken by a barrage.
And referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight, giving Pacquiao a TKO (technical knockout) win after 2min 43sec of the seventh.
"It was a long time ago since I've done that. I came out smoking hot," said Pacquiao after his 39th KO win but his first since he beat Miguel Cotto in November 2009.
"I'm surprised I knocked him down so early - in the third, fifth and seventh."
Much of the credit for the 60th victory of his career can go to conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who said before the fight that "the old Pacquiao" was back thanks to a new training programme.
"We changed things up this time," said Fortune. "It's a different style of training - shorter, faster and more intense."
Matthysse's win-loss record fell to 39-5 (36 KOs). "He's a great fighter," said the Argentinian. "You win some, and you lose some. But I lost to a great legend in Manny Pacquiao."