by David P. Greisman
The boxing business hasn’t been that bad for Lucas Matthysse.
He has fought three times on Showtime in the past seven months, twice in the main event at a Las Vegas casino. He has earned in the low six figures for those fights, at the very least. He is considered to be one of the best fighters in the junior welterweight division.
Yet he feels that this is far from enough, that he is being avoided and disrespected, that he deserves much more.
That’s because Danny Garcia is getting more money.
It’s because Danny Garcia is getting more attention.
It’s because Danny Garcia is getting more acclaim.
And it’s because Matthysse isn’t getting a shot at Garcia.
There are many men who claim to be the most-avoided fighters in boxing. Like many of those men, Matthysse has several factors working against him.
He has two losses on his record — one in 2010 to Zab Judah, the other in 2011 to Devon Alexander — though both were split decisions, and both were debatable. Discounting those bouts, the biggest wins on his record are a 2011 stoppage of DeMarcus Corley and the trio of Showtime victories: technical knockouts of Humberto Soto and Ajose Olusegun, and a one-punch knockout win over Mike Dallas Jr. this past Saturday. Those victories are respectable, and the manner in which he earned them is notable, but none of them carry the kind of cachet that he can cash in on.
That can be chalked up to the usual reason: Lucas Matthysse presents far too much risk for far too little reward.
Both of his headline bouts in Las Vegas have come before small crowds. He does not have the star power of Garcia or Amir Khan, nor is he receiving the marketing muscle that is behind them.
But he does have Golden Boy Promotions. He does have a World Boxing Council interim title. And he does have Showtime giving him airtime.
The boxing business hasn’t been that bad for Lucas Matthysse. For it to be better, though, will require a strong advocate, someone to stand up for giving Matthysse the chances he believes he deserves.
If only that were the way that boxing works.
Alas, boxing only works on behalf of a select few.
The way that boxing truly works is to milk money from a single fighter for as long as possible, to make sure not to do anything to endanger that cash flow until it’s absolutely worth it, or until there’s no other choice.
Garcia — who like Khan and Matthysse is promoted by Golden Boy — went on to have a contractually mandated rematch last October with Erik Morales. A month before then, Matthysse beat Olusegun Ajose (a contender who had earned a mandatory shot at the WBC world title more than a year prior) for the WBC’s interim belt, which put Matthysse in line for a fight with Garcia.
It’s no surprise, though, that Garcia subsequently signed to defend his belts, including the WBC world title, against Zab Judah in a card that was to take place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., potentially capitalizing on Judah’s hometown and the relative proximity of Garcia’s native Philadelphia. Matthysse, meanwhile, met Dallas in what was, for him, a keep-busy fight, and was, to others, a keep-him-busy bout.
Golden Boy is earning more money from Garcia. The WBC allows fighters such as Ajose and Matthysse to be avoided so long as the sanctioning fees from titleholders such as Morales and Garcia are more substantial — likely the same reason the WBC has ignored its own rules for the past half-year by allowing Garcia to simultaneously hold its belt and that belonging to another sanctioning body.
Golden Boy, the WBC and Showtime get to do what another promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, infamously spoke of in the past regarding a never-fulfilled clash between Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez: Let it marinate.
If Garcia and Matthysse keep on winning against their underdog opponents, then there will be more money in their match down the line when they finally do meet.
It would be worth even more if Matthysse was built up even bigger.
He is, at least, continuing to build a cult following through these three entertaining wins on Showtime.
Golden Boy executive Richard Schaefer has said he would like to put Matthysse in with fellow Argentine slugger Marcos Maidana, a potential pairing that leaves hardcore fight fans salivating.
Matthysse, though, was quoted after the Dallas win as saying he’d prefer Garcia.
We’ll see if he gets what he wants first, or if he’ll need to wait and settle for being second fiddle and getting the second-best option.
It’s not that bad, being on TV and in the main event and getting paid in the low six figures.
Matthysse wants better than that, though, and he can’t get there until he proves that he’s better than Danny Garcia.
In his case, waiting isn’t worth it.
The 10 Count
1. That was no typo in the “Tale of the Tape” for Lucas Matthysse vs. Mike Dallas — Matthysse really was 163.5 pounds when he stepped on Showtime’s unofficial scales prior to Saturday night’s main event, according to a Showtime spokesman.
That means that Matthysse weighed in at 138.5 pounds at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, and then was 25 pounds heavier less than 30 hours later — that’s 18 percent heavier. Even if Matthysse was fully clothed for Showtime’s fight night weigh-in, that likely wouldn’t have added more than perhaps five pounds to the total.
That’s just crazy.
Matthysse was at 146 pounds as of Jan. 12, which was 13 days before the official weigh-in, according to World Boxing Council official William Boodhoo. For the skeptics, however, it should be noted that that figure was provided to the WBC by Arano Box, which is a boxing promotional company in Matthysse’s native Argentina.
Nevertheless, Matthysse was actually a pound lighter than Dallas at the official weigh-in: 138.5 pounds to Dallas’ 139.5. Dallas rehydrated to 151.5 pounds. Matthysse still out-weighed him by a dozen pounds.
And he had the advantages in experience, skill and power. Dallas is fortunate that the bout ended with a one-punch knockout, rather than him being on the receiving end of sustained punishment from a heavy man with heavy hands.
2. Tremendous weight disparities can still be tremendously dangerous. One of the most infamous examples came in 2000, with Arturo Gatti’s second-round knockout of Joey Gamache. Gatti was accused by some of never truly making the 141-pound weight limit. On fight night, Gatti came in on HBO’s scales at 160 pounds; Gamache was 145, according to the New York Daily News.
Gamache was badly injured and never fought again.
The International Boxing Federation holds a second weigh-in on the morning of title bouts. Boxers are not allowed to be more than 10 pounds over the weight limit.
WBC officials said last year that they, too, would be instituting a fight-morning weigh-in. That’s yet to happen, though.
3. As if the weight disparity wasn’t big enough between Matthysse and Dallas, there was also the last-minute pre-fight controversy in which Dallas’ esteemed trainer, Virgil Hunter, expressed concern after seeing Matthysse ingest something from a container purportedly of the supplement Amino 4500.
The fight went on, with Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer noting that there was nothing in Amino 4500 that is a banned substance — assuming that was actually what he took, and assuming there was no contamination — and that Matthysse would be undergoing the state’s usual drug-testing after the bout.
It was reminiscent of the Antonio Margarito “Splenda Scandal” prior to his fight with Manny Pacquiao.
Drug testing is really the only line of defense commissions have. Fighters can take something in the dressing room around commission inspectors, or they can take something before going to the venue, or they can take something in the days and weeks prior to a bout.
The only real regulation over what they take is a list of banned substances enforced by better drug testing to try to ensure that the regulations are adhered to. I’m less worried about what fighters are doing in front of commission inspectors and more concerned about what could be going on behind closed doors that is not only going on unmonitored, but going on uncaught.
4. It’s a shame the postponement of the fight between Danny Garcia and Zab Judah from Feb. 9 to April 27 — due to an injury suffered by Garcia in training camp — means that Lucas Matthysse will have to wait even longer for his shot at Garcia (assuming he beats Judah).
I want to see Garcia-Matthysse. But I also want to see Garcia-Judah. There’s something about Zab Judah that makes some of us boxing fans still believe that he can contend, or can at least be part of an interesting fight.
Given that Matthysse took no punishment in taking out Mike Dallas in less than a round, it would’ve been great had he stepped in this February and had a rematch of his disputed 2010 split decision to Judah.
Except that would have meant Matthysse would need to lose two dozen pounds in two weeks.
5. What a difference a year makes when it comes to Robert Guerrero and Floyd Mayweather.
Twelve months ago, Guerrero’s team put forth a torrent of publicity in an attempt to lobby for the fighter to get a match with the biggest moneymaker in the sport. Mayweather, of course, went with a bout against Miguel Cotto instead.
This year, Guerrero is actually an understandable frontrunner for a Mayweather bout — and we’re not so coincidentally hearing little from Guerrero’s camp.
Mayweather-Guerrero isn’t official. No announcement has been made. Last week Mayweather tweeted this: “As of right now I don’t know who I’m fighting on May 4th. Me fighting Robert Guerrero is just a rumor.”
No one will be surprised if it turns out to be fact.
6. Here’s something else that Mayweather tweeted last week:
“Go out and buy the new boxing Ring magazine so I can sign it whenever I see you.”
Here’s why that’s funny:
“Neither Floyd nor adviser Leonard Ellerbe made themselves available to be interviewed for this article,” wrote veteran boxing reporter Bernard Fernandez in that issue of The Ring. “The explanation for Team Mayweather’s disinclination to cooperate, as relayed to me, is that Floyd and Leonard are miffed that THE RING, in its pound-for-pound rankings, leaves the No. 1 position vacant and lists ‘Money’ and [Manny] Pacquiao as co-No. 2s.”
(The latest issue of The Ring — which came out after the issue with Fernandez’s cover article on Mayweather, and in which the ratings reflect Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez — now has Mayweather as the sole No. 1, with Andre Ward at No. 2 and Pacquiao dropped all the way to No. 7.)
7. What a nice little career Brian Vera has made for himself.
Five and a half years ago, he was an anonymous name who had but a brief flirtation with celebrity, appearing on ESPN on the third season of boxing reality series “The Contender” — and getting stopped by Jaidon Codrington in the second round.
That was the very first fight of the tournament, and that was it for Vera. Yet he’s gone on to have one of the better careers of the 16 contestants from his season.
Mind you, he’s gone 8-5 since the Codrington loss. Several of those wins, however, have come against fighters with bigger names or bigger fan bases: Andy Lee, Sebastien Demers, Sergio Mora and, as of this past Friday, former 154-pound titleholder Sergiy Dzinziruk.
Even a few of his losses shouldn’t bring too much shame: James Kirkland, Craig McEwan, and Andy Lee in a rematch. He’s one of those fighters who has improved on the job, is benefitting from experience and from working with trainer Ronnie Shields. He likely will never be a world champion, and perhaps never will even challenge for a world title, but his victories keep earning him future spots on television cards such as ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
He’s one of those guys who will never be anywhere near elite, nor great, nor even very good — but in a sport where we quickly dismiss losing fighters as not deserving of our attention, Vera has firmly established that he’s worth watching.
8. Know who else fought this past Friday and is also going to be worth watching?
I know, it’s shocking.
Andrade had been much derided for the level of opposition he’d faced in the years after turning pro following his appearance in the 2008 Olympics — particularly by ESPN2’s Teddy Atlas during Andrade’s multiple appearances on “Friday Night Fights.”
He could blow out outmatched opposition, but he also showed himself to be boring against his best opponent, when he out-boxed Grady Brewer in August 2011.
Andrade looked good, though, in taking a unanimous decision over Freddy Hernandez last week on “ShoBox: The New Generation.” He’s becoming another fighter who will be worth watching in the stacked junior middleweight division.
It was long past time for Andrade to show himself as more than a coddled prospect being maneuvered slowly against limited foes. It’s time now for him to try to separate himself from the other prospects, and to seek to elevate his standing among the other 154-pounders.
9. It’s not that Andrade is the only prospect to follow that pattern. It’s maddeningly par for the course for far too many highly hyped young fighters.
It’s why it was so frustrating to see the seemingly immensely gifted Gary Russell Jr. stall out in 2012.
And it’s why it was such a headshaking occurrence to watch Errol Spence face a designated opponent named Nathan Butcher this past Saturday during the preliminary undercard bouts to Matthysse-Dallas that aired on Showtime Extreme.
Spence, granted, is a brand new pro who just entered the paid ranks in November after being bounced out of the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics. And it’s long been recognized that the quality of the American Olympians is much lower now than in the past.
But it was a complete joke for a fighter who had just been in the ring with the best amateurs in the world to suddenly stoop so low as to face Butcher — who looked like he had been plucked out of the crowd. What was there to gain by putting a former Olympian in with a guy whose only pro fight before then was a decision loss to an 0-1 local in a tiny community in West Virginia?
Just two months ago, I penned a column entitled “The Parade of Olympian Mismatches Begins.” And it remains true. Spence got nothing but a payday and padding for his record.
Butcher might as well have had an “ed” at the end of his last name. Spence disposed of him in a minute’s time.
10. All will be forgiven, however, if Spence starts calling his fists “The Dukes of Errol.”
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]