If Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse had to have a name, it might be "Uncrowned vs. Underdog." That's because Matthysse has long been considered the uncrowned junior welterweight champion while Garcia has struggled to gain respect despite his undefeated record and his status as a two-belt titleholder.
Each has much to prove Saturday night and they will be doing so before the largest audience of 2013. Matthysse is an 11-5 favorite (as of 9/9). Statistical factors that may influence the outcome include:
A Common Opponent: Their lone link in terms of record is Zab Judah and if one goes by record alone Garcia has a big edge, for he won a unanimous decision over "Super Judah" in his most recent outing while Matthysse lost a split decision in November 2010.
A deeper look into the numbers, however, indicates a much more competitive comparison. While Matthysse officially lost to Judah, the verdict was split (all cards read 114-113) and most observers believed he should have won the IBF/WBO title eliminator. Matthysse scored a 10th round knockdown and he out-landed Judah 165-150 overall and 147-63 in power shots. Judah ended up winning for two possible reasons. First, the bout was staged in Newark, N.J., much closer to Judah's native Brooklyn than Matthysse's Argentina. Second, Judah landed far more jabs (87-18) and was more precise with his power shots (46% to 35%).
As for Garcia, he out-landed Judah 198-140 overall and 189-77 in power shots, but Judah again prevailed heavily in jabs (63-9). He landed 31% of his total punches and 40% of his power shots but Judah came on strong in the final three rounds, out-landing Garcia 52-36 overall and 21-2 in jabs while trailing just 34-31 in power connects. While Garcia prevailed on the scorecards (116-111, 115-112, 114-112), he didn't make the strongest closing argument.
Garcia's Achilles Heel: While Garcia remains undefeated one phase of his game could spell his doom someday -- leaky defense. Judah (59%) and Khan (50%), Garcia's two toughest opponents to date, landed well above the wgt. class avg. (36%) for power punches. In fact Garcia's last 6 opponents landed 40% of their power shots. It's clear that Garcia's fights are fun to watch, but his pugnaciousness may be fatal against Matthysse.
Molasses, Then Murderous: The one saving grace for Garcia is that Matthysse can be had early in fights because he's a tremendously slow starter. He was just 10 of 45 overall in round one against Humberto Soto and against Ajose Olusegun was he 16 of 50 (overall) and 14 of 34 (power) in the opening session. In his most recent fight against Peterson, Matthysse was a mere 7 of 30 overall and 6 of 16 in power shots.
The good news for Matthysse (and bad news for Garcia) is that it doesn't take long for him to find his stride. In rounds two through five against Soto he averaged 75 punches and 23 connects overall and 56.5 power shots and 19.8 power connects while 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.
However, in the Lamont Peterson fight Matthysse never really caught fire until the very end. His output in rounds two and three was 43 and 32, and the final round went two minutes and 14 seconds. Then again, the one knockdown in round two and the two knockdowns in round three were compelling interruptions in Matthysse's punch flow.
Besides being slick southpaws, Alexander and Judah also succeeded against Matthysse because they were able to stem the Argentine's patented 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, for in rounds nine and 10 he was 9 of 64 and 14 of 85.
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 Matthyssze 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: Expect fireworks. In Matthysse's last 7 fights and Garcia's last 6, 31 of their combined 36 punches landed per round were power shots.
If Garcia is to win, he has to find a way to exploit Matthysse's slow start and in doing so inflict enough hurt to keep him from shifting into turbo drive. If he doesn't, the Argentine steamroller will pick up momentum, slice through Garcia's porous defense and send him to dreamland. Because Garcia likes to brawl, he'll eventually be drawn into the firefight that will seal his doom. Matthysse by late round TKO.