During boxing's "Golden Age" of the 1920s through 1950s, it was common for world champions to fight over-the-weight non-title engagements against top contenders with the understanding that if the challenger wins he'll get a title shot down the line. Such may be the case Saturday when IBF junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson will fight Argentine power-puncher Lucas Mathysse with a 141-pound maximum stipulation -- light enough to simulate title-fight conditions but heavy enough to not have the belt at stake. The real winners are the fans, who will get to see two of the best go at it regardless of whether belts are involved.
Statistical factors that may have a bearing on the outcome include:
Moderating With Age: For most of his career Peterson was known as a supreme volume puncher whose above-average accuracy wore out opponents over time. When he met Lanardo Tyner in November 2008, Peterson's numbers for the time were typical -- 82.9 punches per round, 49% overall accuracy, 31% jab marksmanship and 56% power precision en route to connect bulges of 408-121 (overall), 69-13 (jabs) and 339-108 (power).
But as he's aged, he has throttled down the pace -- with increasingly better results over time. When he lost to Timothy Bradley he averaged a respectable 63.8 per round but landed just 31% overall, 14% jabs and 39% power. In drawing with Victor Ortiz he threw just 33.3 per round but landed 44% of his power shots.
Peterson began rounding into his new ring persona against Victor Cayo when he threw 58.8 per round, landed 43% overall, 28% jabs and 50% of his power shots and his new approach really paid off against Amir Khan when he overcame an output deficit of more than 15 punches per round (47.8 to 63.1) by landing 39% of his total punches and 46% of his power shots to counteract Khan's 31% and 36% respectively. Yes, two points were controversially taken from Khan's score due to "pushing," but Peterson's precision enabled him to stay competitive in overall connects (226-238) and to overtake Khan in power connects (188-169).
Peterson may have had a career-best effort in his most recent outing against Kendall Holt. Averaging 55.9 punches per round, Peterson landed 43% of his total punches, 30% of his jabs and 55% of his power shots, registered knockdowns in rounds four and six and created connect bulges of 194-84 (total), 64-38 (jabs) and 130-46 (power). His defense was tight as he allowed 22% overall, 21% jabs and 23% power. In the final four rounds, Peterson out-landed Holt 136-46 (total) and 101-27 (power). Transformation complete.
Get Him Early -- If At All: For one night however, Peterson might want to revert to his earlier self -- at least for the first couple of rounds. That's because Matthysse is a notoriously slow starter. In the first round against Humberto Soto he was just 10 of 45 overall while the pattern held against Ajose Olusegun (16 of 50 in round one). But if Peterson opts to do this there are risks -- and Mike Dallas Jr. found that out the hard way. While Matthysse threw just 33 punches in the first two-and-a-half minutes, the eighth connect proved to be fight-ending.
Once Matthysse's engine is fully warmed up he is a devastating offensive force. The average 140-pounder lands 17.9 punches and throws 60.2 per round but in rounds two through five against Soto, Matthysse averaged 75 punches and 23 connects overall (of which 56.5 attempts and 19.8 connects were power shots). After his slow start against Olusegun, he revved up to 71 punches per round and 30.4 connects overall as well as 56.4 power shots and 27.7 power connects per round from round two onward.
Why were Alexander and Judah able to win split decisions from Matthysse? While the final results could be argued, they still were close fights and the reason why it remained competitive throughout was began both were able to limit Matthysse's surge.
In round one against Alexander, Matthysse was 7 of 56 overall and 7 of 34 power, but it wasn't until round seven that Matthysse really shifted into overdrive (27 of 81 and 25 of 77 in rounds seven and eight). Plus, he couldn't sustain it as in rounds nine and 10 he was 9 of 64 and 14 of 85. By keeping Matthysse under control for enough rounds, Alexander won enough "nothing" rounds to shade the fight.
Against Judah, Matthysse was 8 of 58 overall and 5 of 15 in power shots in round one and it wasn't until the 10th that Matthysse got above 58 punches in a round (25 of 72 in round 10, 22 of 63 in the 11th and 18 of 65 in round 12). In the final three rounds Matthysse was 60 of 155 in power shots to Judah's 24 of 57 but the fast finish couldn't stave off the split decision defeat.
Prediction: This is as good a fight as anyone could ask for at 140 and it will live up to the hype. Matthysse's superior strength and power combined with his ambition will be enough to get the victory, perhaps by late-round TKO.