By Cliff Rold
When first announced, this scribe compared it to the ultimate show stealer and wondered: can Garcia-Matthysse be the Ricky Steamboat-Randy Savage of Superfight 2013?
We’re about to find out.
Steamboat-Savage stole thunder from Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant in the choreographed world of professional wrestling. Garcia-Matthysse looks like it has the chops to leave fans salivating in the same way long after Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez is over.
But are expectations too high? Is this really a great fight or the coronation of a “Machine?”
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: WBC Super Lightweight (2012-Present, 3 Defenses); Ring/WBA “Super” Light Welterweight (2012-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 140 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.5 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 26-0, 16 KO
Rankings: #2 (TBRB, BoxingScene, ESPN, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Nate Campbell UD10; Kendall Holt SD12; Erik Morales UD12, KO4; Amir Khan TKO4; Zab Judah UD12)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 140 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.05 lbs.
Hails from: Junin, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Record: 34-2, 32 KO
Rankings: #1 (TBRB, BoxingScene, ESPN, BoxRec, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 2 KO in interim title fights
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 6 (Vivian Harris TKO4; Zab Judah L12; DeMarcus Corley TKO8; Devon Alexander L10; Humberto Soto RTD5; Lamont Peterson TKO3)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Garcia B+; Matthysse B
Pre-Fight: Power – Garcia B+; Matthysse A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Garcia B; Matthysse B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Garcia A; Matthysse B+
This fight just came together so simply. Each man won, then won again, clearing a path to each other through the Golden Boy bracket of the loaded Jr. Welterweight division. There was much consternation about whether it would happen at all.
Then it got added to biggest show of the year.
It should always be like this.
Entering as the champion, it is Garcia who many feel has more to prove. He looked vulnerable against Zab Judah his last out, building a lead and then hanging on as the veteran made a bold late stand. Contrast that with Matthysse who walked through the usually tough Lamont Peterson and one sees why many are picking Garcia to be defeated.
Garcia has fooled us before, notably against Amir Khan. He did it by being a fighter who knows exactly who he is. Garcia is fundamentally sound and consistent, brave enough to throw with opponents and quick enough to get a jarring left hook to target. He’s accurate and active, both things he’ll need against the sometimes unorthodox but smart boxing of Matthysse.
The Argentine throws straight, hard punches that don’t always start from traditional positions. He too is almost always balanced and is a great combination finisher, setting up streams of shots with lethal intentions. To date, he’s shown a sturdy chin.
He’s also shown some vulnerability. Garcia my have struggled with Judah…but Matthysse narrowly lost to him. Sure, it’s been exaggerated to controversy since but it was really just a close fight. His other loss, the Devon Alexander, is fairly seen by many as just a bad call. Still, speed and movement appear to be his weakness. Garcia might have an edge here is speed, but he stays in the pocket too.
In terms of defense, both can be hit but Matthysse may be harder to line up. One man clearly hits harder; that’s Matthysse too. For Garcia to win, he needs to get off first and be gone before Matthysse gets going.
And he has to do it for twelve rounds. If he tires late it could be a dreadful end.
Garcia has quick hands and should be able to land on Matthysse but his flagging stamina late against Judah gave pause. Matthysse gets stronger as the fight goes on. Garcia may have a surprising early lead but, ultimately, the accuracy of Matthysse will set up a stoppage. When is the big question; sometime in the second half seems the safe choice.
Report Card Picks 2013: 34-20
There is one other title fight of some interest on the undercard this weekend with a couple hard luck warriors doing battle for the belt at 154 not currently held by Mayweather or Alvarez...This has controversy written all over it. Carlos Molina (21-5-2, 6 KO) should win this pretty solidly but he has been unlucky with official, both striped and pencil carrying. IBF titlist Ishe Smith (25-5, 11 KO) is a feel good story in winning a title years after first coming to notice as a sparring partner for Fernando Vargas and competitor on the inaugural season of “The Contender.” As part of Mayweather’s “Money Team,” he has more promotional juice this weekend. He shouldn’t be the better fighter. In a fight closer on the cards then in the ring, Molina's better overall game and more consistent volume of shots should see him through to victory.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]