By Thomas Gerbasi
This week the buzz in the boxing world centered on the September meeting between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. And rightfully so. It’s a great fight stylistically, financially, and any other “ally” you can conjure up.
I love the fight, kudos to both men for stepping up and taking it, and I will be watching.
But it’s not the fight I want to see most this year. And no, I’m not going to dream of Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank kissing and making up and putting together great matchups to last us through the New Year, or fantasy fights like Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao coming to fruition. My dream fight for 2013 won’t shatter pay-per-view records, won’t get the New Yorker and other bastions of literary excellence returning to the sweet science, and it likely won’t even garner much of anything here in the States when it comes to mainstream media attention.
Yet if you matched up Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse, nothing would make me, or any diehard fight fan, happier. For all the wonders of a sport that has produced the likes of Pernell Whitaker and Willie Pep, as well as the Argentine countryman of Maidana and Matthysse, middleweight boss Sergio Martinez, this is a fight that will take the art of fistic violence to an elite level. Think Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Pacquiao IV or Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I, the kind of fights that leave you drained when they’re over, as if you just laced up the gloves and stepped between the ropes.
Add in the idea of nationalistic pride at stake, put it in the Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires where Martinez recently defended his title against Martin Murray, and let these two vicious punchers go at it for as ever long it takes for a winner to be crowned, and it probably won’t be too long.
Frankly, it’s the most obvious fight to made in and around the welterweight division at this point in time. Yeah, Amir Khan vs. Devon Alexander is an interesting bout, a rumored junior welterweight title fight between Danny Garcia and Matthysse intrigues as well, and with Adrien Broner now in the 147-pound picture and Mayweather always looming as the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow for whoever gets to fight him, the area from 140 to 147 pounds hasn’t been this hot in years.
But a Maidana vs. Matthysse fight will be the fuse that really lights this welterweight explosion. Despite competing at 140 pounds, Matthysse will likely carry his concussive power up to 147, where Maidana has only been fighting since 2012, and with catchweights being in vogue these days, why not a meeting at, say, 143 pounds. Who really cares what the logistical particulars are when the end result is this fight?
Are you excited yet? Well, you should be.
Maidana first made a name for himself with his effort in a controversial split decision loss to Andriy Kotelnik in February of 2009, but his real coming out party was the sixth round TKO of Victor Ortiz four months later. Since then, he’s been a major player at 140 pounds, losing a Fight of the Year bout against Amir Khan in 2010, defeating future Hall of Famer Erik Morales in 2011, and bouncing back from a rough welterweight debut against Alexander to blast out Jesus Soto Karass and Angel Martinez in 2012.
As for Matthysse, hotly disputed split decision losses to Zab Judah and Alexander in which he had both fighters on the deck were followed by a series of performances that were either punishing or instantly explosive (and sometimes both) as he halted Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Mike Dallas Jr., and most recently Lamont Peterson. If you want to call him the most feared man in the sport at the moment, few would dispute that assertion.
And if you want to throw a little more fuel on the fire, while Matthysse would likely enter a fight with Maidana as the favorite given his May finish of Peterson and Maidana’s occasionally porous defense and willingness to trade, “El Chino” does hold three amateur wins over Matthysse, adding a new wrinkle to the marketing of the bout that needs little in the way of selling to the boxing faithful.
Simply put, this is a fight that needs to happen, regardless of the outcome of Maidana’s Saturday main event against notorious spoiler Josesito Lopez. If not for national pride and glory, then at least for the opportunity to get into the Mayweather sweepstakes.
Or better yet, to make a statement for the sport.
As former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson said when recently asked by FUEL TV’s mixed martial arts reporter Ariel Helwani what boxing can learn from MMA, “Entertainment, excitement, stop being afraid to fight each other. The greatest boxers are afraid to fight each other. How are they gonna say they’re the greatest boxers if they don’t fight each other?”
Now I’m not saying boxing isn’t moving in the right direction, as fights like Mayweather-Alvarez, Alexander-Khan, Paulie Malignaggi-Broner, and Pacquiao-Brandon Rios will disappoint no one. But when it comes to Maidana vs. Matthysse, they may not be the greatest boxers out there today, but they are likely to produce the greatest fight.