What is the formula for a legendary fight? Is it some combination of boxing styles, skills, the fighter’s determination and heart, two good chins, a raucous crowd and other factors? Can you describe the right quantities to fill in the blanks ________ + ________ + ________ + __________ = Corrales-Castillo? Some would say there is no need to fill in those blanks and indeed, boxing insiders knew a classic was on their hands as soon as the names were put together: Ali and Frazier, Morales and Barrera, Gatti and Ward, Vasquez and Marquez, etc.
Lofty company to be sure but the expectations are certainly high for this Saturday’s Showtime televised bout between IBF junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson (31-1-1) and interim WBC junior welterweight titlist Lucas Matthysse (33-2). The fight will originate from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey (“The House that Thunder Built”) which was the site of the second and epic third fights between Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward. For reasons that boggle the mind (according to Dan Rafael of ESPN, its because Matthysse wanted to keep his position as mandatory challenger to WBC titlist Danny Garcia even though their shared promoter insists the winnter of Matthysse/Peterson will face Garcia in September), this bout will be contested at 141 pounds meaning neither title will be on the line and it will not be a unification fight. Such frivolity is the only thing you can criticize about this fight.
The fighter’s styles match perfectly. Peterson is a skilled boxer with a great amateur background who uses a pressure fighting style which involves breaking his opponents down with excellent body punching. Peterson does not have very good punching power but he does wear his opponents down and has a number of late stoppages. He has a good defense but his pressure style results in him getting hit and his chin has betrayed him at times. Peterson was dropped once in his first loss, a 2009 title fight against Timothy Bradley, twice in a 2010 majority draw with Victor Ortiz and once again in 2011 title winning effort against Amir Khan. While Ortiz is a good puncher, Khan is more of a speed puncher and Bradley is not a big puncher. Matthysse, on the other hand, is a seek and destroy boxer-puncher. Maybe that should be puncher-boxer because with 31 knock-outs in 33 victories and scoring a knock down in each of his split-decision losses (a 2010 title eliminator against Zab Judah and a 2011 bout with Devon Alexander), he certainly has TNT in his fists. Matthysse’s offense also acts as his defense and he has no problem exchanging punches.
Besides the styles meshing well, both fighters are determined to win this fight because they absolutely need a win. Peterson was involved in a well documented steroid scandal after he tested positive for an elevated testosterone level and admitted to taking testosterone prior to an aborted rematch with Khan. Prior to that bout Peterson was well-liked and the scandal not only was hit against his reputation but caused his career momentum to come to a halt. Instead of a million dollar payday to face Khan in a rematch, Peterson was on the shelf for over a year before getting $37,500 for his successful February 2013 defense against Kendall Holt. Peterson certainly needs a high profile win to get back to where he was before the positive drug test and a win over the well-regarded Mattysse would be that win. Matthysse, on the other hand, also needs a win on a big stage. Both times Matthysse has stepped up to face elite opposition in televised main events, he lost controversial decisions. Although you can argue he won both the Judah and Alexander fights and he should be undefeated, the fact remains is that he did not do enough to get the official victories and move forward to bigger fights. A loss to Peterson could be three strikes and Matthysse is out of big time fights. As if that is not enough motivation, Golden Boy Promotions has announced that the winner of this fight will face WBC titlist Danny Garcia in a big money fight to crown a junior welterweight champion. The winner of this fight could also be considered for a fight with Floyd Mayweather. The money in those fights is certainly motivation for Matthysse, who grew up poor in Argentina, and Peterson, who grew up poor and, at times, homeless, with his brother Anthony in Washington, DC.
If that isn’t enough to show why expectations are so high for this bout, the oddsmakers see this as a very close fight: Bet365 list Matthysse as a 7-4 favorite; SportBet has Matthysse at -220 (Peterson is +180) Boxing experts are divided on who to pick. Isn’t that the best reason for a fight to be a good one – the fighters are evenly matched and the fans do not know who is going to win?
This is an enormously tough fight to pick. It would not be a surprise if either fighter won either by stoppage or decision. Because I have to pick one, I will take the slight underdog, Peterson. He has shown that if he gets dropped, he can come back stronger and win. I think these guys will slug it out, Peterson will hit the floor and come back to wear down Matthysse and take a decision. Additionally, I do not like the late-breaking news that Matthysse only arrived in the U.S. on Thursday because his home in Argentina was burglarized. Peterson is the pick.
Since the main fight of the weekend is so difficult to pick, here are three fights where the odds will not make you rich but the money is easy to get. On the Matthysse-Peterson undercard, IBF welterweight titlist Devon Alexander defends his title against British fighter Lee Purdy (20-3-1), a late replacement for fello Briton, Kell Brook. If you have never heard of Purdy, don’t feel bad, the oddsmakers apparently have not either as they list him as a massive underdog (SportsBet has Alexander at -2300, Bet365 says he is a 10-1 favorite). They have good reason to because Purdy has losses to a fighter with a losing record and another with nine losses and his best win is over 15 loss Cosme Rivera. Alexander has faced a much better level of competition (Bradley, Matthysse, Marcos Maidana) and is a solid defensive fighter. Alexander is the pick in what figures to be a terrible fight. The day before, Moscow, Russia will host two title fights. WBA “regular” heavyweight titlist Alexander Povetikin (25-0) defends his title and risks his future almost $6,000,000 payday against Wladimir Klitschko against Andrzej Wawrzyk (27-0). Povetkin is a massive favorite (9-1 by Bet365 and -1700 by SportBet) and no one knows who Wawrzyk is (his best win is over former U.S. Prospect/Suspect Devin Vargas). Povetkin is the pick. On the same card, Dennis Lebedev (25-1) defends his WBA cruiserweight title against 41 year old former titlist, Guillermo Jones (38-3-2). In the past 5 years, Jones has fought 3 times and he is going to Lebedev’s home country. Lebedev is a favorite (SportBet says -500, Bet365 says 4 to 1) and he has made a career recently beating up old fighters (Roy Jones and James Toney are recent examples). Lebedev is the pick.
Four fight picks isn’t enough for you… okay, one more. No odds are available for the return of “Sugar” Shane Mosley (46-8-1) against Pablo Cesar Cano (26-2-1) airing Saturday night on Fox Deportes from Cancun, Mexico. Mosley has not won a fight since 2009 and was briefly retired. Before the retirement, he looked horrible in fights with Canelo Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Mora. Cano, on the other hand, gave a good account of himself against Paulie Malignaggi last October. That said, he took some good shots from Paulie, who can’t punch, and was stopped by a much smaller Erik Morales. Mosley has enough of a chin to slug it out with and beat Cano. Amazingly, Mosley is the pick.
Author’s Record for the Year: 26-6-2 (During the big Mayweather fight weekend, I went 6-7 for the second week in a row but, get this, my only loss was picking Gabe Rosado over J’Leon Love, a close fight most, except two of the official judges, had Rosado winning and now Love has tested positive for a banned substance. No you don’t get your money back and I can’t change a loss to a win – although Love loses the win, Rosado loses the loss and both fighters gain a no decision).