By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
A frenzy of hype has surrounded the build-up to the September 14th mega-event entitled ‘The One’, when the eyes of the boxing world once again fall on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Once again, a certain Floyd Mayweather Jr is the primary reason for the allure, as he takes on Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in the biggest fight of the year and – potentially – the richest fight in history.
But the light-middleweight showdown that takes the starring role is also backed by a stellar supporting cast, with chief support on the night being an excellent match-up for the lineal light welterweight crown. Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse top the undercard in a fight that could have headlined a bill of its own, as we find out who is king at 140lbs.
Garcia (26-0, 16 KO's) is the man who officially sits atop that throne, after accumulating the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine titles in impressive fashion last year. The Philadelphia native upset the odds to beat faded legend Erik Morales in March and become a titleholder, before unifying crowns with a shocking fourth-round stoppage of Amir Khan last July.
After dispatching Morales in four in their rematch and effectively ending the Mexican's career with a perfect left-hook, Garcia saw off another veteran in Zab Judah when they met in May of this year. Dropping the Brooklyn southpaw en route to a unanimous decision win, 'Swift' took another step towards cementing his claim to being the 140lb division's best.
But there's another man in the division whose resume is of high enough stock to make a counter claim. Matthysse, who since losing a disputed decision to Devon Alexander in 2011 has brutally stopped six successive victims. Last time out, the Argentine ‘Machine’ crushed IBF titleholder Lamont Peterson in three rounds, in a performance that made everyone sit up and take note, including Garcia who was sat at ringside.
Matthysse (34-2, 30 KO's) has sent all thirty-six of his opponents to the canvas and in the eyes of many observers should still be regarded as an undefeated fighter. His losses, to Alexander and Judah, both came by virtue of split-decision and in both cases Matthysse was the visiting fighter in his opponent’s backyard.
The 30-year-old has come up along a hard road without the promotional backing of many of his contemporaries, but should he get past Garcia could be headed towards super-stardom. With his devastating power and relentless stalking style, the Trelew puncher has been building up a cult following and now under the influential management of Al Haymon – who also handles Garcia – mega fights like the one at the top of this bill could soon be within his reach.
The same carrot is on offer for Garcia of course and though the 24-year-old has been a little unappreciated thus far in his title reign, a win over Matthysse must surely silence the critics. Critics who proclaim Morales and Judah were past their best – undeniable at least in Morales’ case – and that his win over Khan was a fluke as he caught the Brit with a ‘lucky punch’.
He was being outboxed until the third round and the punch he initially put Khan down with looked like a wild swing, but it was the same shot that finished Morales and troubled Judah. When Garcia struck Khan, it was with a well-timed counter left hook that capitalised on his opponent lunging in exposed, something that undefeated fighter had picked up on during the early exchanges.
Garcia perhaps doesn’t get his due because in the eyes of many he doesn’t do anything spectacular, though to say the left hook he throws with mean intentions isn’t spectacular is something of a disservice. He’s not particularly fast, a little open, swings a bit wide and looks a little unconventional in doing so, but he is a tough, solid all-rounder who’s punching power is possibly a little underrated also.
Matthysse no doubt deserves to be considered the bigger puncher of the two, but make no mistake Garcia can bang. Though the champion’s detractors – or more likely those of his outspoken father Angel – are eager to see how he handles the challenger’s shots, Garcia is probably the hardest hitter that Matthysse has faced and will pose questions of the Argentine’s resistance at this level.
On the flipside, there is much more to Matthysse than merely being a pressure-fighting puncher. His boxing ability is often undervalued, as is his defence and when he hasn’t been able end fights early with a single shot, he’s intelligently broken fighters down, cutting the ring of well and slipping inside his opponent’ punches to land.
It’s unlikely that Matthysse will have to go chasing Garcia in the ring. Garcia is brave and likes to exchange and might be a little wounded by those who see Lucas as the heavier hitter. But in the later rounds against Judah, that approach proved costly as Zab was able to get back into the fight and although Danny kept his composure and held on for the win, it will be much harder to survive a fire fight with a puncher like Matthysse.
Garcia takes punches to land them and he just can’t do that in this fight, which justifies the oddsmakers having Matthysse as the betting favourite. But if he can survive and quell the challenger’s assault with his own power, then perhaps he can upset those odds again.
A great fight.