By Jake Donovan
It was a bout pitting two fighters nobody else wanted to face. It stands to reason that both fighters retain such status well after Saturday’s headliner at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Lucas Matthysse poured on a full night’s worth of punishment before finally forcing Olusegun Ajose to wilt at the end of the 10th round.
The fight began well for Ajose but quickly went downhill. Matthysse is notoriously a slow starter and took a round or so to find the proper distance for his crushing blows. Ajose took advantage by outworking the Argentine.
Then came round two; an avalanche soon followed.
Ajose’s granite chin and warrior’s heart was all that kept him alive in a fight where he was serious trouble from the second round onward. Matthysse had his unbeaten foe on the verge of a stoppage in the second, but Ajose refused to wilt. Left hooks and right hands continued to reign down as Matthysse was relentless in his attack.
With each passing round, Matthysse poured on more and more punishment to where Ajose appeared to age overnight. The 32-year old – already battling ring rust after having not fought in nearly a year – had no answers as his opponent was in predatory mode, cutting off the ring and not allowing an escape route.
Four straight rounds of Ajose taking unanswered punishment briefly came to a halt in the 6th round. Matthysse was still in control of the action, but took a considerable amount of return fire for the first time in the fight. The sequence was momentary, as Ajose quickly fell back behind for the remainder of the round as well as most of the seventh.
Somehow, Ajose had enough energy to take the initiative in a spirited round eight. Body shots finally slowed Matthysse in his tracks, even if not enough to necessarily win the round. Ajose also found success with his right hook, landing a three-hook combo at one point.
Things grew a bit sloppy in the ninth, as fatigue appeared to set in for both fighters. The leather was still flying, but the frame featured more clinching that at any other point in the fight. A similar pattern developed in Ajose’s win over Ali Chebah nearly a year ago, while Matthysse usually gets stronger as the fight gets deeper. The top-rated contender finished strong, landing a left hook that once again had Ajose in trouble.
After braving nine rounds of near non-stop punishment, Ajose finally wilted in the 10th. Matthysse never stopped punching, believing he had a knockout well within his sights. The instinct proved correct, as a straight right hand late in the round had Ajose out on his feet.
Matthysse unloaded, landing left hooks to the body and more straight right hands upstairs. A final straight right put Ajose down on the canvas for the first time in his career. The preceding sequence had referee Russell Mora ready to jump in anyway, with the manner in which Ajose crashed to the canvas prompting the third man to dive and rescue the battered Nigerian boxer.
The official time was 2:59 of the 10th round.
Matthysse improves to 32-2 (30KO) with the win, his fourth straight. Some will argue that the free-swinging knockout artist should still be undefeated. Chances are that what he will be for the next few months is a fighter without a willing opponent, even with a title in tow.
The win netted the Argentine his first major title, winning an interim belt that puts him line for a full title shot against the winner of next month’s rematch between Danny Garcia and Erik Morales.
Ajose falls for the first time in his career. Having represented his native Nigeria in the 2000 Olympic Games, a long-awaited attempt at alphabet glory comes up empty as he falls to 30-1 (14KO).
In the SHOWTIME-televised co-feature, J’Leon Love was awarded an 8th round disqualification win over Ramon Valenzuela Jr.
Love was in control for the entire fight over Valenzuela, a career six-round fighter who had never fought beyond six rounds prior to this bout. The disparity in skill was evident early on and over the course of the fight. Valenzuela had his moments, but were few and far between.
The fight gained major separation in the second half, with Love pouring on the punishment and appearing to be on a way to a stoppage. Valenzuela took note of this and began searching for an exit. The 21-year old wisely clinched his way out of trouble towards the end of the 7th round, but went too far in lifting Love off of the ground. The sequence earned him a one-point deduction, though a moot point as he was already on the wrong end of a shutout and no threat to turn things around.
Love sought to close the show in the 8th, only for Valenzuela to employ the very same tactic. This time, referee Jay Nady skipped past the warnings and deductions, instead calling for a disqualification.
The official time was 0:35 of round eight.
Love improves to 13-0 (7KO) with the win; Valenzuela is now 7-2 (1KO), having now lost two straight.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox