Some fighters are so consistently exciting it feels like watching them butter toast would be quality television.
Every generation has them; the kind of guys who feel like they could be in a classic any time they step in the ring. Carmen Basilio, Bobby Chacon, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Nigel Benn, Arturo Gatti, Ruslan Provodnikov…the ceiling of accomplishment can vary, but the combination of guts, offense, and vulnerability makes every fight a must see.
Subriel Matias already has his first loss out of the way, and avenged it with a knockout. Now he’s got his first title out of the way after a thriller on Saturday against Jeremias Ponce. Staying cool in the pocket, and unwavering against the right hand and body work of Ponce, Matias scored a knockdown late in the fifth and Ponce opted not to return to combat.
It was about as good a five-round fight as one could ask for. Ponce started great, pitching an almost perfect frame in the opening round with excellent shifts between close quarters and use of his long limbs to relaunch his offense.
Ponce couldn’t keep it going. Matias wouldn’t let him. From this vantage point, the first was the only round Matias lost as he quickly figured out the timing to land better, and harder, when Ponce brought his attack forward. It was still breathtaking stuff with CompuBox tallies coming in at some 800 combined punches in five rounds.
Jr. welterweight is hot right now and Matias with a belt further stokes the flames.
Futures: While lineal king Josh Taylor is headed toward Teofimo Lopez next, there are still plenty of other options at 140 pounds. Of the noted top contenders for the IBF belt, Uzbekistan’s Shohjahon Ergashev looks like the best positioned and most available and that would be a hell of a fight. Is there a fight in the class that wouldn’t be? Matias in unification scraps with Regis Prograis and Albert Puello would be intriguing. So would a clash with rising Gary Antuanne Russell.
Boxing can never have enough guys whose name attached to any fight sounds fun. With his style, Matias may not be a flame that burns for long but it’s going to be a hell of a ride. On Sunday, an older fighter on the other end of his career added an extra piece of glory to his tale.
Jack Becomes a Two-Division Champ
Badou Jack hasn’t always been the luckiest fighter. Draws in a super middleweight unification with James DeGale and in a challenge of lineal light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson were evidence of that. The line between what we recognize as the tip-top elite of the game and the guys right below them can sometimes be hair thin.
Slower, heavier, but still schooled with the foundation of so many tough fights along the way, Jack rose to cruiserweight, unleashed his southpaw right hand, and made himself a titlist in his second weight class at the age of 39. Ilunga Makabu, younger by almost four years, looked like the older and slower man once the bell rang but he didn’t go easy. It was a high volume contest where the marksmanship and timing of Jack were more than enough.
Jack has always come across as one of boxing’s working men, a mature professional there to win without much flash but plenty of substance. It was there again as, after scoring knockdowns in the fourth and eleventh rounds, Jack closed the show in the final round. It was hard not to be happy for him.
Futures: Jack’s win probably won’t see him ride off into the sunset and how he’s matched at cruiserweight will probably have to be a careful process. The fighter in the ring Sunday would be hard pressed against some of the division’s other titlists like Jai Opetaia and Lawrence Okolie. Looking at the WBC rankings, a clash with former light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (currently rated fourth) could be a good idea for both men if we end up going that direction eventually. It’s an option that might sell a few tickets and give fans a fun old-man clash.
Jake Paul lost but that doesn’t really matter. For folks who are into his thing, the story can keep playing on for a bit. It’s like its own parallel universe but one that has shined a light on Amanda Serrano and gave a guy like Jack another big night.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
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