By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Lucas Matthysse battles light welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson this Saturday, but will not get the chance to lift his rival’s IBF world crown. The fight at a 141lb catchweight means that neither Peterson’s title, nor Matthysse’s WBC interim strap are on offer, but nevertheless there are high stakes when the pair meet at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The winner is expected to receive a unification bout with the division’s lineal champion, the WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine titleholder Danny Garcia. It’s essentially the second semi-final of a four-man tournament to determine the top dog at 140lbs – sorry Mike Alvarado – after Garcia’s victory over Zab Judah in April.
Matthysse (33-2, 31 KO’s) is arguably the most ferocious puncher in the sport with a frankly scary 86.1% knockout ratio and despite being avoided for his power has managed to smash his way to the fringes of world title contention. The two blemishes on the Argentine’s record each came by way of controversial split-decision to Judah and Devon Alexander, both of whom where fighting in home territory and were put on the canvas by Matthysse.
Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KO’s), who suffered well-documented adversity as a homeless teenager before his rise through the sport, achieved a professional dream in 2011, winning a world title at home with an upset of Amir Khan. His finest hour would be marred by waves of controversy however, firstly over the scoring of the fight, then by failing a drugs test ahead of a rematch.
Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone to scupper a return bout with Khan last May and was stripped of his IBF title ahead of a lengthy lay-off from the sport. Bizarrely however, the IBF reinstated him as champ in the wake of Khan’s knockout loss to Garcia and following the findings of an independent physician that suggested innocence on Peterson’s part, he defended his title against Kendall Holt this February, earning some redemption with an eighth-round stoppage win.
Matthysse comes off late January’s successful defence of his interim crown, with a one-punch knockout of Mike Dallas Jr in the first round. It was a fifth consecutive triumph inside the distance for the 30-year-old, with the most impressive victory in that spell coming last September, when he stopped the highly regarded and then undefeated Nigerian brawler Ajose Olusegun in the tenth.
With a lone loss against Timothy Bradley and a hard-fought draw with Victor Ortiz, Peterson’s never been stopped in his professional career though he has been put on the canvas a number of times. With Matthysse’s record of either dropping or stopping his previous opponents, it would appear fairly likely that at some point Lamont will taste the canvas here.
Perhaps not exceptional in any department other than heart, Peterson’s a solid all-rounder, a good boxer with moderate power and a tight defensive guard. In Matthysse he faces a devastating knockout artist with underrated boxing skills of his own. That said, a blueprint to beat Matthysse was perhaps shown by Judah and Alexander in their tussles with the Argentine, boxing off the back foot and moving, tactics that also gave Olusegun moments of success.
The Washington native isn’t the most inclined to take a backward step however and perhaps doesn’t have the expeditious foot speed required to avoid Matthysse’s pressure. Peterson has a penchant for inside work and likes to come forward, so even if he does have the ability to outbox Matthysse, he might not use that endowment to his advantage.
It’s a recipe for toe-to-toe warfare and a thrilling encounter with Matthysse expected to come stalking forward looking for the knockout and for both men it’s potentially a pivotal fight in their careers. Looking beyond this fight there’s Garcia, but there could be even bigger carrots on offer. As things stand, Floyd Mayweather is still on the lookout for a September opponent.