By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – No one would’ve blamed Lucas Matthysse had he requested a soft touch.
The former junior welterweight champion hasn’t fought in nearly 19 months, and that fight marked the worst night of his career. Viktor Postol didn’t just knock out Matthysse in the 10th round of their WBC super welterweight title fight in Carson, California, the then-unbeaten Ukrainian broke the orbital bone around Matthysse’s left eye.
The injury required a lengthy layoff from boxing and sparked speculation that the knockout artist from Argentina would retire. Once he healed, though, Matthysse (37-4, 34 KOs, 1 NC) hired Joel Diaz as his new trainer and instructed his co-promoter, Mario Arano, to tell his fellow co-promoters at Golden Boy Promotions that he wanted to test himself in his first fight back.
Emmanuel Taylor, Matthysse’s opponent Saturday night on the Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard in Las Vegas, isn’t an elite fighter at 140 pounds. But he doesn’t represent a tune-up fight for Matthysse, either.
The 26-year-old Taylor (20-4, 14 KOs) hasn’t been knocked out during his eight-year pro career. And in Taylor’s biggest fight to date, he was more than competitive during a unanimous-decision defeat to former four-division champion Adrien Broner (33-2, 24 KOs) in September 2014 in Cincinnati, Broner’s hometown.
“When I came to [Arano] for this fight,” Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez said during a press conference Thursday, “he said, ‘Yes. I’ve talked to Lucas. He’s willing to fight. Eric, he wants a real fight. He doesn’t wanna just come and have a walkover. He really, really wants a real fight. He’s hungry again. His injury’s behind him.’
“And when I told him about Emmanuel Taylor, they knew exactly who he was because Lucas fought on that undercard [when Taylor fought Adrien Broner]. He fought in Cincinnati. And he stood there to watch Emmanuel fight tooth and nail with Adrien Broner. That was a close fight. So when I told him [he could fight] Emmanuel, he said, ‘Perfect. I want a real fight. I wanna prove that I’m back. And if I beat this guy, then I wanna be considered for big fights again.’ ”
Matthysse maintains that his left eye hasn’t given him any trouble throughout training camp. The 34-year-old Matthysse, who has knocked out 83 percent of his professional foes, also hopes he can become the first opponent to stop Taylor.
More than anything, Matthysse wants to prove he is far from finished following the first knockout defeat of his 13-year pro career.
“I just wanna let you guys know, in particular the people from Argentina, that Lucas never retired,” Arano said. “He was never away from boxing. He took a break, but now he’s back. He’s back to give you guys more wars. … You’re not defined by one fight – the Postol fight. Look at everything he did during his entire career, before that.”
Matthysse-Taylor, a 10-round welterweight bout, will be one of four fights HBO Pay-Per-View televises from T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; $69.99 in HD). The main event will pit Mexican rivals Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) and Chavez (50-2-1, 32 KOs, 1 NC) against each other in a 12-round bout contested at a catch weight of 164½ pounds.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.