You'll forgive my skepticism when Golden Boy Promotion's CEO Richard Schaefer told me earlier this month that they were considering putting a bout between Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) and Danny Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez fight.
It's not that Schaefer is untrustworthy, not as boxing promoters go anyway. It's just that a move like that, using legitimate headliners in a supporting role, hasn't been part of the boxing tradition in years.
Pay-per-view telecasts, in the last decade at least, typically feature a tremendous main event, some prospects on the undercard and nothing else remotely palatable. Only true gluttons for punishment would dare sit through an entire broadcast. Most tune in for the main event only.
That's been the case for years, a tradition seemingly set in stone. Is it any wonder I found it unlikely that even Schaefer, one of the most powerful men in the sport, could change the system that dramatically?
And yet, here we are. The two best 140-pound fighters in the world will indeed do battle on Sept. 14 before Mayweather takes the stage.
"The Butterbean days are over," a vindicated Schaefer told the press during a conference call announcing the bout. The Bean was a loveable but mediocre four-round fighter known more for his girth than the wallop he packed in both fists. Promoters like Golden Boy, Schaefer continued, owed the sport better.
"We don't want to just offer a great main course, we want stellar appetizers, too. As the leading promoters, we want to take on the responsibility to show new fans, non-boxing fans, great fights."
A great fight is exactly what fans are getting. Matthysse, an Argentinian slugger Schaefer calls "the next Manny Pacquiao," stalks his opponents around the ring in the most intimidating of fashions. He has power without question. Thirty-two of 34 fights have ended with his opponents staring at the lights.
Despite a record packed full of unknown Argentinians, Matthysse is for real. A three-round shellacking of former champion Lamont Peterson earlier this year proved that.
Across the ring will be Danny Garcia, who was at Matthysse's coming-out party against Peterson.
The Philadelphia-based fighter made his bones against aging stars Erik Morales and Zab Judah and really put himself on the map with a stunning knockout of Amir Khan in 2012. But many thought he looked scared witless at the prospect of fighting a wrecking machine like Matthysse, one of the reasons some skeptics doubted Golden Boy would be able to put this fight together.
"These people who wrote Danny was scared of Matthysse have egg on their face," Schaefer gloated. "He wanted the fight more than any other fight. I am really pleased this is happening. I was asked everywhere I went, 'Will you be able to pull it off, Garcia-Matthysse?' Well, yes, we did."
In the ring it should be a bout that provides plenty of fireworks, perhaps designed to give fans some excitement before Mayweather takes the ring for his typical display of defensive genius. Both Garcia and Matthysse are there to be hit, Garcia looking for his deadly counter-left hook and Matthysse simply looking to rain down destruction. It's a fight unlikely to go to the judges' scorecards.
Yet, despite its obvious appeal to hardcore boxing fans and potential to turn into a compelling slugfest, there are legitimate questions about whether this bout really appeals to enough fans to help push Mayweather-Canelo past the all-time pay-per-view record of 2.525 million buys set by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
For the most part, both Matthysse and Garcia are unknowns outside the insular world of serious boxing fans, all of whom are chomping at the bit to put down their $75 for the extravaganza.
In a vacuum, Matthysse and Garcia aren't likely to make a big difference to the fans on the fence, who will be the difference between 1.5 million and 2.5 million buys. But the specifics of exactly who these fighters are may be less important than what they represent.
Casual fans deciding whether or not to buy the big fight might not recognize either fighter by name. They will, however, read media reports and hear about the efforts Golden Boy and Showtime are making in order to create something special. That, more than their name value, will be what helps propel this show into the record books.
ESPN's Dan Rafael points out another reason it may be worth the promoters', including Floyd Mayweather's Mayweather Promotions, time and money to put Matthysse and Garcia on the undercard:
"Mayweather could also have ulterior motives. The winner looms as a strong candidate to be his next opponent, so having a big audience become familiar with Garcia and Matthysse makes sense. Mayweather also holds a welterweight title and likely will return to that division after the Alvarez fight. The Garcia-Matthysse winner, meanwhile, will have accomplished all he can do at 140 pounds and likely would move up to 147."
The fight, Schaefer said, has already broken the Nevada record for ticket sales, surpassing $19.5 million, with tens of thousands of closed-circuit tickets expected to move quickly in the days before the fight as well. While he feels confident that they will break the overall revenue generated by Mayweather-De La Hoya, he stopped short of predicting a record-setting number of buys.
"I don’t want to be that bold,” Schaefer said, perhaps ironically. After all, adding a marquee fight to an already sold-out show is one of the boldest moves in recent boxing history and a legacy-making move for Schaefer and his partners, the best promoters in boxing.
Jonathan Snowden is Bleacher Report's Lead Combat Sports Writer. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were gathered firsthand or from a media conference call. Mayweather vs. Canelo takes place Saturday, Sept. 14, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and it airs live on Showtime PPV.
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