On Saturday, May 18, IBF light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson will meet ferocious Argentinian brawler Lucas Matthysse at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. This is one of the most eagerly anticipated matchups of the spring.
The fight will take place at 141 pounds, so the IBF title will not be on the line. Still, much more than any alphabet-soup belt is at stake. Peterson and Matthysse are two of the top-ranked fighters in the always competitive light welterweight division, and both have an obvious future at full welterweight, where some of the sport's biggest money fights take place.
This is the kind of fight where the winner is difficult to predict, but a relentless, action-packed war is almost a sure bet.
|Lamont Peterson||Lucas Matthysse|
|Record:||31-1-1, 16 KOs||33-2, 31 KOs|
|Weight:||141 pounds||141 pounds|
|Hometown:||Washington, D.C.||Buenos Aires, Argentina|
Matthysse's 86 percent knockout ratio is one of the best among active fighters. He is a relentless puncher who finishes hurt opponents. Peterson has more than enough power to force an opponent to respect him.
Matthysse's only two losses were by split decision, to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander. Both of them were hotly debated, and the loss to Alexander is regarded as among the worst of recent years. Many fans still consider him undefeated.
Peterson lost by unanimous decision to Timothy Bradley in December of 2009. His draw came against Victor Ortiz, in a fight where he had to claw back into it after being dropped twice.
Peterson's reach advantage could be significant in this fight. He is an experienced professional with a strong amateur background and has the craft to exploit it.
At 29 and 30, Peterson and Matthysse are at similar points in their careers: experienced veterans entering what should be their big money years.
Over the past two years, Matthysse has emerged as one of the sport's most popular fighters. His all-action style and bad luck with the judges have made fans rally behind him. Last month he signed a deal with Al Haymon, adviser to Floyd Mayweather and one of boxing's major power brokers.
Peterson grew up as a homeless child on the streets of this nation's capital. His story is the kind of inspirational tale that boxing fans usually resonate with strongly, but his image took a hit when he failed a PED test after his already controversial split decision win over Amir Khan in December of 2011.
The commission ultimately accepted his defense that he was a legitimate Testosterone Replacement Therapy patient, not entirely implausible for a person who got less than ideal nutrition as a child. Still, Peterson enters this fight in search of redemption.
Putting the respective backgrounds to one side, the real story here is about what is going to happen in the ring and what will happen down the road as a result. This could be a potential fight of the year. The winner will take a big step up the ladder towards legitimate stardom.
Lucas Matthysse is a relentless and powerful puncher. He has not only knocked out 31 of 35 opponents; he's also knocked down everybody he has ever fought, including the two men who hold victories over him. His big shots come in rapid succession from a variety of angles, making it very difficult to predict or spot an opening to counter.
I feel Matthysse is highly underrated as a boxer. He has good head movement and blocks punches very well.
His offensive footwork is outstanding. He is an expert at cutting off the ring, and when he lands a big punch, he is usually moving into an ideal position to follow up on it.
Lamont Peterson is a skilled boxing technician, and he has a definite edge over Matthysse in experience against world-class opposition. He has quick feet and a fast, stiff jab. His head and shoulder movement is terrific, and he counters brilliantly off from the shoulder roll with both the left hook and the overhand right.
Peterson is an extremely resilient person; he had to be to survive his grim childhood. That quality has been evident numerous times in the ring when he has fought back strong after being knocked down. He is a skilled boxer, but has no hesitation to battle it out in the trenches when that is what is required of him.
Lucas Matthysse has better defense than it might appear at first glance, but he can definitely be hit. So far this has not been a major problem for him, because he has been able to hit everybody else back more often and harder. But against a guy like Peterson, who can deliver a powerful counter punch, his aggressive style could cause problems for him.
Matthysse has faced tough competition, but it's been a couple of years since he's fought anybody with a skill set comparable to Peterson's. Being a bully with no respect for his opponent is a big part of his game, but he needs to be careful he doesn't walk into a big shot.
Lamont Peterson has been knocked down a lot in his career, for such a highly rated fighter. He has a tendency to get drawn into exchanges that don't favor him, and against Matthysse this could be murder.
I do not like the way Peterson tends to keep his feet far apart, at least not for a fight like this one. I understand that it facilitates his shoulder rolling and ducking, and that it lowers his center of gravity and helps him get more power into his counters. But it compromises his balance, and I think it's the primary reason he got dropped against Amir Khan.
Against Matthysse I feel he will need to get up on his toes more to exploit his reach advantage.
Peterson needs to avoid staying flat-footed. He needs to get up on his toes and use his jab and movement to keep the pressure-fighting Matthysse at the end of his punches. He needs to turn Matthysse and make him constantly reset, to avoid giving the Argentinian tough guy the chance to load up and deliver a barrage.
Matthysse is absolutely brutal at medium range, where he strings together dizzying combinations of hooks and overhands to the body and head. Peterson needs to continually change the distance where the fight is waged from, either stepping back behind his jab, or stepping in to attack the body before stepping to the side and turning Matthysse around.
Peterson should avoid getting dragged into a brawl. He has a fighter's heart, so this will be difficult in the heat of the battle. But he has far less chance of winning that kind of fight.
It's no big mystery what Lucas Matthysse needs to do to win this fight. He needs to come forward, cut off the ring on Peterson and throw a lot of heavy leather without giving Peterson any room to counter back.
But he needs to show that he can box a little bit, too. Peterson is not the kind of opponent who is going to fold, and if Matthysse gets careless with his aggression, Peterson has more than enough ability to drill him with the sort of shot that can turn the entire fight around.
Peterson's three-inch reach advantage and stiff jab will make it difficult for Matthysse to implement his usual game plan. He's going to have to double up on his own jab and mix in some head movement to get into the position where he wants to be.
This is not an easy fight to predict. I can see an obvious path to victory for both men.
But ultimately I am going with Matthysse. I think Peterson has to do too many things to win, and while they are things he is very capable of doing, they are not necessarily the things he usually does.
Matthysse can win this one simply by fighting the way he is most comfortable fighting. He needs to avoid throwing caution to the wind and risking too many heavy shots from Peterson. But if he can remain patient while implementing his pressure game, and then unload with relentless aggression when the situation is right, he should win.
And I think he is going to do that. I think he will block and slip Peterson's shots as he moves forward, and consistently find range for his own brutal attacks to the body and head. It will be a war, but Matthysse is a fighter made for war.
I am picking Matthysse by Round 10 TKO. Even as I write it, I am aware I could be buying into the hype of an extremely exciting fighter. But I'll stand by the prediction.
Matthysse, Round 10 TKO. And I think he will beat Danny Garcia if they fight next fall.