By Francisco Salazar
Lucas Matthysse never wanted this.
The attention. The so-called hype. The interviews. The Angel Garcia negative rants about him.
One thing a well-known boxer can count on is press written about him. Ever since Matthysse has been winning, and winning decisively the last coupler of years, it has been an endless stream of interviews requests, photo ops, and repeated questions about the same subject.
Matthysse has been a good sport about all the attention he has received. His demeanor oozes confidence and humbleness, not cocky.
All he has ever wanted to do in the sport of boxing is just put on a pair of gloves and fight when called upon.
Pretty simple, right? Train, make a few comments about your next fight, and then fight.
So, why all the attention on Matthysse? While it could be the highlight-reel knockdowns or knockouts of his recent opponents, the answer may lie in his simple, humble, direct approach to the boxing game.
An improved defense accompanied with better boxing skills is making Matthysse an appealing, yet formidable fighter who may become a superstar with an impressive victory on Saturday night.
Matthysse will fight on the biggest stage in his pro career when he faces unbeaten Danny Garcia in a scheduled 12 round bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. The bout will precede the 12 round fight between Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
The card will be part of the Showtime Pay Per View telecast that will begin at 9PM ET/ 6PM PT.
Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) has scored impressive knockouts throughout his career. People tend to think Matthysse can only win by dropping his opponents, but the 30 year old has an extensive amateur background.
Over the years, the boxing ability has improved dramatically and his defense has tightened up considerably. Which is why, to the chagrin of the Garcia camp, a majority of media and boxing fans think Matthysse will win on Saturday night.
That is not to say Garcia is a slouch. Garcia has won two world title belts, is undefeated, and had a stellar amateur career to boot. Even Matthysse has given credit to his opponent on Saturday night, knowing full well a letdown has never been in his vocabulary.
“I respect him a lot because he’s a champion,” Matthysse told Boxingscene.com over the telephone last Friday. “However, he’s not a great fighter yet. I know he beat (Erik) Morales, but he wasn’t as strong and effective as he was when he was younger.”
“I know that I’m in a difficult fight come Saturday. I’ve worked very hard in preparation for this fight. I’ve had very good sparring in the last couple of weeks, especially with Timothy Bradley in the (Southern California) desert.”
Matthysse makes a point. Garcia has built a credible and modest resume, beating Morales (twice), Amir Khan, and Kendall Holt.
Then there are the fights where Garcia may not have been at his best, prompting people to pick Matthysse as the winner when they square off. Garcia dropped Zab Judah in his last fight on April 27th, but looked sluggish and was hit often in the last third of the fight.
While Matthysse has two losses, some in boxing think he is facing an unbeaten fighter in Matthysse had two close and controversial decisions gone his way.
Matthysse lost a very close 12 round split decision to Judah in November of 2010, where some members in the media thought Matthysse did enough to win. Less than a year later, Matthysse lost a controversial 10 round decision to Devon Alexander, in a fight where Matthysse dropped Alexander midway through the fight.
One would think Matthysse has always had that confidence that overflows before and during a fight. Little do people know that it was the loss to Judah that gave Matthysse more confidence than he had ever felt before.
“The Judah fight was a learning experience because I gained a lot of knowledge,” said Matthysse, who is advised by Al Haymon. “It showed that I had progressed as a fighter. Even now, I feel comfortable throwing combinations and I have tightened up my defense. All of what I have done is because I have worked hard in the gym.”
It may seem like it looks so effortless to Matthysse. In his last fight on May 17th against Lamont Peterson, a fight where Peterson was slightly favored to win, Matthysse bided his time before hurting and dropping his opponent. The end came in the third round when Matthysse finished Peterson with a left hook to the head.
Who seems to be the dangerous fight Matthysse would have faced this year: Garcia or Peterson? That is open to debate, but an impressive third round technical knockout is still a third round technical knockout.
That is where the media comes in and boxing fans, not to mention promoters and managers. Matthysse trains and is ready for a fight.
Is it fair to Matthysse that he is under scrutiny to perform on Saturday, which may or may not include a clean cut or knockout victory over Garcia? Should he have to impress or will he still have this aura of semi-invincibility should he lose a close decision?
Matthysse could care less. He just wants to get in the ring and fight. He wants to fight the best fighters out there and Garcia is the best fighter available right now.
Confidence can do wonders to a fighter and their career. With that and an improved arsenal of weapons, it may be difficult to stop Matthysse, who goes by the nickname of “Machine.”
Then again, that and humility has been the right formula for Matthysse. He hopes to continue that for Saturday.
“Because of the experience I’ve gain, I have much more confidence. I’m not overconfident going into this fight. I’ve learned from my mistakes and I have gotten better.”
“Physically, I feel great. Not only did I work hard for this fight, but I’m confident I will win this fight.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since last September and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper and Knockout Nation. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing