I will start this article by answering the question posed in the title immediately—with no equivocation: Yes, Lucas Matthysse had done enough to earn a shot at Danny Garcia in 2013.
Most people who follow the sport, with any degree of seriousness, are well aware of this fact. Matthysse deserves a title shot, and oh, boy, do fans want to see him get it. He is the most exciting and dangerous type of fighter—a brawer who can box.
He has a record of 33-2 with 31 KOs. His two losses both came by way of controversial split decisions, to Zab Judah and to Devon Alexander, so a lot of fans still regard him as undefeated. The hard punching Argentiniand even recorded knockdowns in both of those official losses.
So yeah, Matthysse deserves a shot at Garcia. He deserves it more than any other fighter in the division. If Garcia-Matthysse was scheduled for this month or next, it would be one of the most highly anticipated fights of the spring.
Matthysse first came to widespread attention in the states when he fought Judah in November 2010. I re-watched the fight on YouTube, and it was a little bit of a surprise to remember the degree to which Matthysse was viewed as no more than an opponent for Judah coming into that one.
The entire narrative being pitched by the HBO team during that fight was about the career rebirth of Judah. Jim Lampley spoke twice in the early part of the broadcast about unidentified "but knowledgeable" boxing people who had all predicted Judah to thoroughly outclass the rough-edged Matthysse and put him away in the middle rounds.
Instead, Matthysse forced an ultimately more compelling counter-narrative: the arrival on the U.S. scene of yet another star from Argentina.
Matthysse seemed to grow increasingly confident as the Judah fight progressed, controlling the action down the stretch and dropping Judah in the 10th. Judah escaped with a split decision that many observers felt he didn't deserve.
Just over half-a-year later, Matthysse dropped another split decision, this time to Devon Alexander, in November 2011. To most observers, Matthysse clearly won this fight, not just dropping Alexander in the fourth, but thoroughly outworking him all night long and beating him up in the late rounds.
The decision was so horrible, it was even booed by a large percentage of Alexander's own hometown fans in St. Louis.
Matthysse has won five straight fights since, all by stoppage. The highlight was his 10th-round TKO of previously unbeaten Ajose Olusegun last September, which earned him the interim WBC light welterweight belt.
So Matthysse is more than deserving of a shot at Garcia. And as the interim WBC champion, he is already the mandatory No. 1 contender for that portion of Garcia's own crown.
But instead, Garcia is set to face Judah, on April 27, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed when this fight was announced.
While I am not in the camp that views Judah's decision victory over Matthysse in 2010 as a serious injustice, I don't see how anybody can deny that Matthysse has emerged since as the more worthy contender.
I just don't see what Garcia gets out of the Judah fight—beyond a big payday in Brooklyn. Judah was already handled with ease by Amir Khan—the man Garcia TKO'd to win the WBA and Ring portions of his title.
Then again, it's called professional prize fighting for a reason. The size of the payday is never irrelevant.
The great thing about the 140-pound division is that it is loaded with talent, and ultimately, nobody has to sit around waiting for anybody else. So as Garcia detours into Brooklyn this spring, Matthysse will push ahead and face IBF belt holder Lamont Peterson in May.
The IBF allowed Peterson to retain their version of the title even after he tested positive for PEDs and was stripped by the WBA. Peterson had collected both belts in December 2011, when he won yet another controversial split decision over Khan in front of his hometown crowd in Washington.
Peterson's failed drug test forced the cancelation of his rematch with Khan last July. Instead, WBC champion Garcia was brought in to face Khan. Garcia made the most of it, dropping Khan to the canvas in the third and finishing him off in Round 4.
And so now, it is Garcia sitting at the top of the always thrilling 140-pound division. It will be the upset of the year if he loses to Judah this month. Most likely, Garcia will take care of business with relative ease.
After that, fans are going to expect him to fight somebody who represents a substantial challenge.
I am hoping he doesn't initially fight a rematch with mir Khan instead. Don't get me wrong, Khan will, no doubt, deserve a rematch at some point. He remains among the most gifted boxers in the sport and will likely win enough fights in a row to justify another title shot.
But my opinion is that Garcia beats Khan at least seven times out of 10. It is true, Khan won the first two rounds going away in their first fight. But if you watch that fight in retrospect, you really can see Garcia studying and absorbing and setting up for the big counter.
Khan looks flashy and quick and scores with some impressive combinations, while Garcia stays patient and keeps probing with attacks from a variety of angles and levels. I just can't see Garcia beeing unable to do that again and again against Khan.
And I don't see Khan ever having the chin to stand up to Garcia when Garcia finally tags him.
Meanwhile, Matthysse and Peterson should be a more competitive affair. My bet is, we're going to see yet another candidate for Fight of the Year. Peterson will not hesitate to climb into the trenches with Matthysse and make things into a dog fight.
Based merely on resume, I currently rate Peterson slightly ahead of Matthysse. However, my personal opinion is that the Argentinian will win in May. I am predicting that he is going to win and that he will look fantastic doing it.
Afterward, the demand for a showdown between Garcia and Matthysse should be overwhelming. It should be the fight that Garcia will have to make. And it should be the fight that he will want to make.
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