by Cliff Rold
The stage is set.
September 7, we hope, the two best Jr. Welterweights on the current scene should face off. Lucas Matthysse could well be undefeated. Danny Garcia is. When their time in the ring is done, one man will have proven definitively to be the best in the world at 140 lbs.
Considering 140 might well be the best division in boxing right now, and has been for a few years, that’s no small shakes. Matthysse made a statement against Lamont Peterson. Garcia is the chance to fully arrive as the force he appears to be.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Peterson B; Matthysse B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Peterson B; Matthysse A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Peterson B; Matthysse B-/Post: C; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Peterson B+; Matthysse B+/Post: B; A
There was a feeling Matthysse might be able to end matters early going into the fight. He’s clearly a monster puncher. On the Showtime broadcast on Saturday, Paulie Malignaggi mentioned the name Julian Jackson. It’s not out of bounds.
Couple that power with a fighter who regularly gets off to rocky starts and the ingredients were there.
Ingredients are only one element of a recipe. Baking the cake is the thing. Matthysse put on his chef’s hat and went to work. Peterson deserves credit for doing what he always does. He showed heart in getting up and continuing to try to find a way. He didn’t see the hook coming that drilled him into the floor for the first of two knockdowns in round three, second of three trips to the floor overall.
Sometimes, the sledgehammer wins.
Matthysse is all the buzz now, and why not? Fight fans have seen him mature before their eyes. Since arriving on the US scene in a debated loss to Zab Judah, and suffering an even more debated decision loss to Devon Alexander, he picked up valuable experience and came out the better for it. Those lessons are playing themselves out in a prime that promises the possible thrill of detonation every time he steps in the ring.
Some are already throwing out the name “Mayweather” as a hopeful foe one day. Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza seemed open to the idea on Twitter…down the road. Matthysse stamped himself against Peterson in a new way. He’s almost arrived. Garcia is the last step in the way of a divisional coronation.
If he can get there, and win, sky may be the limit.
Before moving to the rating updates, a few words about a Lightweight title clash from two Saturday’s ago…
Sometimes, it really is about heart.
WBO Lightweight titlist Ricky Burns showed it. Anyone who saw his fantastic battle with Rocky Martinez to win his first title at 130 lbs. already knew he had it. On a night where, for six rounds, he was clearly not the better man, Burns left with his hand raised.
And challenger Jose Gonzalez left with the sort of stain in his reputation that can be impossible to shed. Roberto Duran is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters that ever walked the earth.
“No Mas” still dogs him.
Vitali Klitschko has rarely lost rounds, much less fights, in an almost twenty year career. Even with nasty battles against Lennox Lewis and Corrie Sanders under his belt, there are those who never forget his injury capitulation to Chris Byrd.
Jose Gonzalez will have his chances to put this moment behind him. It will never leave. In a fight he was winning, he had Burns hurt in round seven and couldn’t put him away. In rounds eight and nine, a gassed Gonzalez looked like he might struggle to finish. It was the sort of moment where a fighter can dig deep and define who they are inside.
Burns pushed though his moment, weathered the seventh, and stamped another example of why he is one of boxing’s most watchable beltholders.
After round nine, claiming a hand/wrist injury, Gonzalez quit.
Being the better man for six rounds only matters in a fight scheduled for six. Burns packed a lunch for an all day affair and should get credit for it. Boxing is a skill sport and Burns is not an unskilled fighter. But sometimes, a fighter finds a man whose skills are greater than his. On nights like that, victory requires something else.
Burns found it.
He’s a hard fighter not to like.
Report Card Picks 2013: 19-14
It’s been a busy couple weeks. Updates abound.
Jr. Welterweight: Matthysse takes the top slot and appears, strongly, to be the best in class. Garcia will have a lot to say about it. Peterson slips below Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado and may be headed for a showdown with Zab Judah.
Lightweight: Burns holds onto the #2 slot and is poised to rise should Adrien Broner successfully move to Welterweight and remain in the higher class.
Jr. Featherweight: Vic Darchinyan, now clearly contesting at 122, moves into the top ten with his second straight win in the division. He is now the WBO mandatory to World Champion Guillermo Rigondeuax.
Bantamweight: Darchinyan’s exit comes the same weekend Jamie McDonnell managed an upset of Julio Ceja for the IBF belt vacated by Leo Santa Cruz. McDonnell enters the top ten.
Jr. Bantamweight: In a fun action scrap, Liborio Solis bested Kohei Kono for a belt at 115 lbs. and enters the top ten.
Flyweight: With another impressive win over a former champion, Giovanni Segura this time, Edgar Sosa moves up a notch at 112 and should be the mandatory for lineal and WBC champ Akira Yaegashi.
Strawweight: On the strength of a decisive win in a competitive title fight, and the men ahead of him having recently lost, beltholder Ryo Miyzaki moves into the division’s top 3.
The full results of note, more moves, and the total impact on the ratings are a click away.
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]