By Ben Jacobs
Some boxing trainers are placed in the spotlight almost as much as the fighters they train, even if it is not of their own choosing. In recent years Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia and Virgil Hunter have come to the fore, particularly as they have trained many top class fighters and world champions.
As hard-hitting Argentine Lucas Matthysse continues to rise towards the top of the sport, his trainer will likely come under more scrutiny from boxing fans and television networks.
Luis ‘Cuty’ Barrera has trained Matthysse for his entire career. He first came to his attention when Lucas was competing for the Argentine Olympic squad and the young power puncher came to train in Junín, in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Barrera himself was a former fighter who lost to Chris Eubank in the final bout of his career and had 17 knockouts out of 35 victories. Now the biggest battle of their career awaits on September 14 as Matthysse faces WBC and WBA super champion, Danny Garcia.
Speaking to BoxingScene following an afternoon training session, Barrera discussed the upcoming bout as well as the evolution of his star pupil.
“Lucas is looking really good in training, he’s working hard.
“He’s currently working on his strength in the morning and in the evening he works on speed.
“We’ve wanted this fight for a while, ever since Garcia became champion after beating Érik Morales.”
‘Cuty’ refutes suggestions by some fans that Garcia was scared to take the fight, and that was the reason the bout took so long to be officially signed.
“Boxers are never afraid, a boxer will fight anybody,” said Barrera.
“What happens is the people around the fighters might have doubts. Obviously they’ve seen that Lucas has been winning, they know they have a guy in front of them who hits very hard.”
The bout between the two men who are widely considered to be the best fighters at junior welterweight will of course feature on the undercard of the clash between Floyd Mayweather and Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez. There will also be a press tour in various cities which could see Angel Garcia, the father and trainer of Danny, engage in some interesting verbal matches. He has previously raffled the feathers of more than one fighter, including Amir Khan, who appeared to be riled following the press conferences and some controversial words from Angel. Barrera however is unmoved on the issue.
“Danny Garcia’s father can say what he wants. It’s going to be the two boxers in the ring who actually do the fighting. All the talking doesn’t interest me.
“What interests me is that Lucas is in good shape and that he shows what he’s been showing in the last few fights.
“I’m the trainer; I prepare Lucas Matthysse for the fight. I have no interest in speaking badly about Danny Garcia or other opponents.
“I think Garcia’s father is a great trainer, that’s why his son is a champion.”
Although ‘Cuty’ is a keen observer, he confesses that he does not spend hours watching tape of Lucas’ opponents. Rather, he adopts a specific method of identifying the potential weaknesses of the fighter in the opposite corner.
“Garcia is a very good boxer, I haven’t been watching many videos of him but when I do study him I watch the last few rounds because that’s where you see how much stamina a fighter has, if he has been well trained.
“Everyone looks good for the first five rounds. After that, that is where you see how good they are physically,” he added.
“We always work in training on strength and stamina so that we can go the distance and beat anybody.
“As far as the Judah fight is concerned, not all fights are the same. Maybe Danny got overconfident, or maybe he didn’t train as hard. But remember that Judah is a very good fighter – he has been a great at 140lbs. That’s why he was able to do well against a young, hard puncher like Danny.”
For many observers, Matthysse was unfortunate to suffer close decision losses to Judah and Devon Alexander. Some felt that he deserved the nod and he did score a knockdown in each bout. However, despite the belief that they won those fights, the Matthysse camp also felt that one or two changes were necessary.
“Lucas has improved a lot since he fought Judah and Alexander. In fact, he’s more of a boxer than a puncher. We sat down after those fights and we said we were going to change a few things. We’re boxers, and we said we’d work on strength, speed and aggression. I hope Garcia comes looking for us, if he does then it will be easier. Lucas actually boxes very well on the back foot.
“Lucas has also been working on his movement. And you saw the difference in the fight with Peterson, who is a great champion. You saw how that went. Lucas can hurt you with just one punch.
“I wasn’t surprised that it ended so early because I know how hard he hits. He hurts you when he hits you. I wear a protector when we’re training and he hits harder every day.”
Barrera, humble, prefers to stay out of the limelight and leaves the credit to the fighter whom he has groomed into one of the most popular fighters among hardcore boxing fans today.
“I’m lucky to have Lucas Matthysse as my fighter. I have some good other fighters with me, including a couple of world youth champions. I hope they follow the same path as Lucas. Lucas has opened the doors to where I am now because we’ve been together for years and you can see the result of all the work we’ve done.”
Perhaps after September 14, the trainer as well as the boxer will be mentioned as one of the very best in the sport today.