The Best Fight in Boxing is Not the Main Event? Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse

If conventional thinking and traditional boxing norms were in place, the junior welterweight championship fight between Ring Magazine, WBC and “super” WBA titlist Danny Garcia (26-0) and “interim” WBC titlist Lucas Matthysse (34-2) would have probably taken place this past Saturday, September 7, 2013. It would have been held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York where Garcia’s last two fights took place or at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey where Matthysse’s May destruction of Lamont Peterson occurred and which is only just down the road from Garcia’s hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There probably would have been between 10,000 and 13,000 fans in attendance given that Garcia’s April fight in Brooklyn drew over 13,000 and, while Matthysse does not speak English and drew under 4,500 for his May fight, his knockouts have raised his stock and most likely increased his fan base. The fight would have aired live on Showtime which would have been happy with doing a decent rating and for the opportunity to further promote the next weekend’s “The One” pay per view featuring Floyd Mayweather facing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Sounds pretty good right?

Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, the outfit which promotes Alvarez, Garcia and Matthysse and works with Mayweather, is not a conventional thinker and the former banker likes to go outside of the norms of boxing. It also goes without saying that the promoters and Showtime do not consider “The One” to be a normal pay per view event. When all of this was combined with the complexities of making a big fight between Garcia and Matthysse which made the September 7, 2013 date all but impossible, Schaefer came up with an “outside the box” idea… make Garcia vs. Matthysse as the co-feature to Mayweather vs. Canelo on “The One.” To be sure, the under-performance of May’s Mayweather-Guerrero pay per view certainly was a motivating factor for the promoters and network to do everything it could to increase the chances of success for “The One.” But this was still a unique idea given the norm that undercard fights don’t sell pay per views (only the main event does) and, as discussed above, Garcia vs. Matthysse as a main event would be a successful attraction on its own.

The uniqueness of this bout being an undercard makes one wonder the specifics of how it was done. In this case, “specifics” means financially. Garcia earned $1.25 million for his April victory over Zab Judah and Matthysse’s purse for his May fight was $700,000. Using those figures, Garcia vs. Matthysse would cost $2 million to put on “The One.” Usually, less than that is spent on a pay per views entire undercard (televised and untelevised). Then keep in mind that for such a big and dangerous fight, both Garcia and Matthysse certainly demanded purses much higher than the ones paid early this year. The exact amounts are unknown but speculation is that Garcia is making close to $2 million and Matthysse is making over $1 million. This is a substantial amount of money that eats into the overall profitability of the pay per view event. Indeed, that is why Schaefer needed Mayweather’s permission to make the fight for the pay per view.

The promoters are clearly thinking that the marketability of the fight and the prospect of it being an exciting fight will help drive sales of the pay per view and increase customer satisfaction. There is certainly a demand for this fight; a demand that has been building for all of 2013.

At the beginning of the year, Garcia was celebrating a tremendous 2012, a year in which he was in the discussion for “Fighter of the Year.” He ha made the move from prospect to titlist by defeating Mexican legend Erik Morales for the WBC 140 pound title. He then took a unification fight with WBA titlist Amir Khan on short notice and scored an upset fourth round knock out. Garcia closed out the year by obliterating Morales, who tested positive for steroids, in a rematch. In 2013, Garcia signed to fight former multi-time junior welterweight titlist and former welterweight champion Zab Judah. Schaefer told the press that this would be the beginning of an unofficial 140 pound tournament that would involve Matthysse, Peterson and possibly Khan. Garcia advanced with an impressive performance over a determined Judah. The initial rounds were slow but then Garcia began to take over the fight. He hurt Judah multiple times, especially in the fifth and sixth rounds, and dropped the Brooklyn native in the eighth round. For his part, Judah did not go gently into that good night; rather he turned the momentum around and hurt Garcia in the 10th and 11th rounds. Following a toe to toe 12th round, Garcia was declared the victor. More importantly, Garcia had another notable victory in an exciting fight. He clearly had arrived as a consistent premium cable headliner, an exciting television fighter and budding box office draw on the east coast.

Matthysse, on the other hand, used 2012 to recover from his two split decision losses: a 2010 fight with Judah and a 2011 ten round fight in Saint Louis, Missouri against hometown fighter Devon Alexander. Despite the losses, Matthysse was still highly regarded because he dropped both opponents in those fights and many boxing experts were highly vocal in their belief that the Argentine won both fights (it is author’s belief that he lost to Judah by one point but defeated Alexander by two points). During this time, Matthysse also solidified his reputation as a big puncher when he dropped former titlist DeMarcus Corley nine times in a 2011 bout. He continued to gain acclaim in 2012 when he dominated and forced former three division titlist Humberto Soto to stay on his stool after five rounds in what was supposed to be a back and forth slugfest. Matthysse then stopped then undefeated rugged African challenger Ajose Olusegun (a fighter who was avoided by Morales and Garcia) and started 2013 off with a bang with a “Knock Out of the Year” candidate when he starched prospect Mike Dallas, Jr. in 2:26.

Matthysse then faced what was thought to be his toughest challenge when he faced Peterson in the unofficial tournament. Garcia, fresh off his victory over Judah, was seated front row in order to enhance interest in him facing the winner. It was thought that Matthysse could have problems and even be defeated by Peterson, an aggressive offensive fighter with terrific body punching, a good defense and a viable chin. Those thoughts were for naught as Matthysse ran through Peterson and annihilated him in three rounds. Following the knockout, the cameras turned to Garcia and he had what could be termed as an “interesting” look on his face. Some would say he looked shocked, his detractors would say he looked terrified.

That led to some in the boxing world speculating that Garcia would “duck” a challenge from Matthysse. The speculation grew when Schaefer could not announce that the fight was finalized. However, Garcia proved himself to be no chicken and the fight is on.

What a fight it should be. Matthysse is an aggressive fighter with terrific offensive skills. With a 94% knock out ratio, Matthysse is also one of boxing’s great pure punchers and consistent finishers. Garcia is no slouch in the punching department either. He was able to ice Khan and Morales in the rematch with terrific left hook counter punches. Along with good punching power, Garcia is a good athlete with a responsible defense. Most importantly, Garcia has shown the ability to overcome very tough moments. In the Khan fight, he survived an onslaught in the first two rounds and a cut over his right eye and in the Judah fight, he overcame being hurt in the championship rounds to win the fight. He will clearly have to thrive in the face of the powerful Matthysse and Garcia’s past shows that he may be able to do so.

One other factor that will make Garcia vs. Matthysse a terrific fight is motivation. Not only are the fighters being exposed to their biggest audience and making career high pay days but the winner will be in line for even bigger business. Yes, if Mayweather beats Canelo in a fashion that makes a rematch unmarketable, the winner of Garcia vs. Matthysse would be the most viable opponent for “Money” Mayweather in May, 2014. That alone should be enough to produce a fantastic fight.

The “Other” Undercard: The pay per view will also feature two other televised bouts but neither should produce anything close to the excitement that the main event or co-feature will. Ishe Smith (25-5) will defend his IBF junior middleweight title against Chicago native, Carlos Molina (21-5-2). Both guys are easy to root for as they are good citizens who have been the victims of bad decisions by referees and judges (Smith got the short end of the stick against Sechew Powell in Powell’s hometown and against Fernando Guerrero; Molina was wrongfully disqualified when he was dominating James Kirkland and was saddled with a draw when he beat Erislandy Lara) and inactivity at the hands of their former promoters (Smith with the “The Contender” people and Molina with Don King). That said, their styles are not conducive to producing crowd pleasing fights: Smith is defensive minded and uses more faints than punches, Molina’s style employs a lot of clinching and rough-housing, and neither guy is a big puncher who produces knock outs. The pay per view will open with a fight featuring welterweights Pablo Cesar Cano (26-3-1) and Ashley Theophane (33-5-1). Calling these guys “contenders” would be a stretch since neither fighter has a notably win (Theophane has a “victory” over Delvin Rodriguez but that was a gift decision that everyone though D-Rod won). Additionally, Theophane is 33 years old and has an awkward style and Cano has lost three of his last six (two of which were to aged and shot legends Morales and Shane Mosley). Not much can be expected there.

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