The calendar clearly says mid-July.
But to boxing fans, Thursday afternoon felt an awful lot like Christmas morning.
Under the guise of a media conference call orchestrated by his elves at Golden Boy Promotions, executive Richard Schaefer came down the chimney bearing a gift that many had wished on for weeks—a 140-pound bout matching sluggers Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse.
The fact that Garcia is a two-belted champion and will be risking his WBA/WBC jewelry against the menacing Argentine—last seen splattering IBF champ Lamont Peterson across an Atlantic City canvas as Garcia sat ringside—is roughly as meaningful as tube socks from Grandma.
Instead, the fan juice flows from the idea that the fight matches two unapologetic knockout-hunters who seem almost predestined to produce a violent end, whether of the grinding version Matthysse laid on Peterson or the one-shot variety Garcia produced in 2012 defeats of Amir Khan and Erik Morales.
But wait—there are even more presents to open.
Though it’s certainly worthy of a standalone Showtime Saturday night, the Garcia-Matthysse brawl will serve as the final undercard appetizer to a more significant—if not necessarily more entertaining—pay-per-view feature bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Mayweather, who’s 44-0, will meet Alvarez, now 42-0-1, for the WBA and WBC belts at 154 pounds, though the fight will be contested at an agreed-to middle ground of 152.
Schaefer, Golden Boy colleague Oscar De La Hoya and Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza spent much of a recent nine-day, 10-city press tour hyping the main bout alone as reason the card would challenge the 2007 show featuring De La Hoya and Mayweather as the most-purchased PPV of all time.
Incidentally, the final prelim to that main event was Rocky Juarez vs. Jose Andres Hernandez.
Adding Garcia-Matthysse takes another step toward ensuring the PPV mark falls, takes the starch out of a call to boycott the show because of its retail price ($65 standard-def/$75 high-def) and lays the formative groundwork—assuming Mayweather wins on Sept. 14—for the next event, which would be the third on the lucrative Showtime deal he signed earlier this year.
Before Thursday’s call, it was tough to visualize a clear third step.
After the call, that’s no longer the case.
While we chatted backstage at the Mexico City tour stop on July 1, Espinoza rattled off a list of foes who were being considered for subsequent bouts. Among the first words out of his mouth was “Matthysse,” who’s already rising stock blew through the roof following the defeat of Peterson, who became the 32nd KO victim on a nine-year resume that includes just two non-stoppage triumphs.
In fact, only one of the slugger’s victories has gone to the scorecards (in 2008)—his remaining win was by disqualification in 2004—and he scored knockdowns in each of two losses, which came via controversial split decisions to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander seven months apart in 2006-07.
Of all fighters these days not named Golovkin, he’s got the nearest thing to “baddest man on the planet” street cred. And when stacked alongside the other options Espinoza suggested as Mayweather foils post-Alvarez—Marcos Maidana, Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz, among them—he’s far more compelling as an irresistible force contrasted with the shoulder roll that’s dominated the sport since the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the main event loses no luster if Garcia gets there first.
Though it’s easy to lose sight of the Philadelphian’s value amid the perpetual bluster of father and trainer Angel, the string of victories he’s embarked upon since hitting the main stage in Las Vegas two years ago actually dwarfs Matthysse’s resume by a large margin.
He routed a still-functional Nate Campbell and won a split nod from Kendall Holt in 2011, then earned his first title with a gutsy decision over Morales in their first meeting in March 2012. A single left hand began a three-knockdown toppling of Amir Khan and added another belt in July; and Garcia left no doubts in a Morales rematch, which he ended with a whistling left at 1:23 of the fourth in October.
Then, three weeks before Matthysse-Peterson, he dropped Judah en route to winning unanimously.
A similar storyline of "brawny upstart versus defensive guru" could be built around the 25-year-old. And, as much fun as the Garcia-Matthysse press conferences might be come September, the nonsense would reach another stratosphere with the placement of Angel opposite Floyd Sr. and Uncle Roger.
No offense to Marcos, Amir and Victor, but Thursday might have been Christmas for Showtime, too.