Who Does Lucas Matthysse Need to Beat to Appear in Pound-for-Pound Rankings?
Lucas Matthysse entered 2013 as already one of the hottest and most popular fighters in boxing. In January, he knocked out well-regarded Mike Dallas in the first round. In May, he followed up with a brutal, Round 3 TKO of IBF light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson.
There's a strong argument to be made that this was enough to earn him a place in the pound-for-pound rankings. I doubt many knowledgeable fans would rank him outside of their top 20, and I would hardly scoff with derision at anybody placing him in their top 10.
Peterson had been in the ring with many of the sport's top stars and had never been chewed up and spit out the way he was against the rugged Argentinian.
So Matthysse is clearly knocking on the door now, if not already standing inside the room. Convincing wins over any of the following fighters should make him a universally acknowledged, pound-for-pound top 10.
Danny Garcia exploded onto the boxing scene last July, when he TKO'd Amir Khan in four rounds, hijacking the WBA and lineal light welterweight titles in the process. But Garcia followed that by rematching Erik Morales in October and then Zab Judah this past April.
Neither of those fighters are considered particularly relevant at this point.
And Garcia actually struggled with Judah late in the fight. So, while Garcia might have the majority of belts and the claim to the lineal title, at least a substantial minority of fans now view Matthysse as the man at 140.
The winner of Peterson-Matthysse was supposed to get a shot at Garcia in the fall, and Garcia was ringside to watch their fight. Garcia's reaction to Matthysse's destructive performance was captured on camera during the broadcast.
I'm no poker player, so I won't try to read too much into Garcia's facial expression that night. I'll say he looked a little surprised and leave it at that.
But I have to observe: The fight everybody thought was inevitable, between Garcia and the winner of Peterson-Matthysse, still hasn't been made.
I think there's a good chance this fight still happens this fall. Nobody is going to take Garcia seriously as the 140-pound champ if he fights anybody but Matthysse next. If he vacates and moves up, he'll be dogged by criticism that he ducked Matthysse.
But if he fights him, I think he gets stopped. And a win like that should be enough to push Matthysse into the pound-for-pound top 10.
Adrien Broner is already ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 by The Ring, but that publication is owned by Broner's promoter, Golden Boy. I'm not sure how many people not drawing a salary from Golden Boy actually agree with putting The Problem that high.
I'd frankly rank Matthysse over Broner at this point, based on their most recent fights. Broner catapulted up the rankings based upon his eight-round destruction of Antonio DeMarco last November.
That's hardly a more impressive performance than Matthysse's Round 3 demolition of Peterson.
What Broner did to DeMarco wasn't even unprecedented. Edwin Valero handled DeMarco in a similar fashion in 2010. Nobody had ever rolled Peterson the way Matthysse did.
Broner deserves credit for being a three-division world champion by age 23, but he wowed nobody when he took the welterweight belt off Paulie Malignaggi via split decision in June of this year. After the fight, Broner told Showtime's Jim Gray, during his post-fight, in-ring interview, that he would fight “whoever the fans vote for.”
I'm not sure where the balloting is being held for this, but I do know that in a true fan election, Matthysse would be a top vote-getter. They are both promoted by Golden Boy and managed by Al Haymon, so a deal should not be too difficult to work out.
If Matthysse knocked off Broner, The Ring would surely elevate him to pound-for-pound, top-10 status. And it would be a case where I think the majority of fans would agree.
Robert Guerrero came up way short last May, in his attempt to be the first man to beat Floyd Mayweather. He lost an extremely one-sided unanimous decision.
Still, he remains among the top-ranked fighters at 147 pounds. And if Matthysse can't get a deal to fight Garcia at 140, it will probably make no sense for him to delay moving up in weight class any longer.
Guerrero would make a compelling early opponent for him as he ventured up to welterweight. The tenacious Ghost, with his southpaw style, would look to press the action on Matthysse and deny him the chance to establish his own destructive game plan.
Because of the type of fighter he is, there is a very good chance Matthysse might end up beating Guerrero more dramatically than Mayweather did. While that would hardly prove Matthysse was “better” than Mayweather, it would probably be an impressive enough accomplishment to earn him a spot in most pound-for-pound top 10 rankings.
Devon Alexander handed Lucas Matthysse his second career loss in June of 2011, via split decision. But the fight was held right outside of Alexander's native St. Louis, and the decision has been one of the most widely criticized in recent years. Matthysse dropped Alexander to the canvas in Round 4.
If Matthysse moves up to welterweight, a rematch with Alexander would make a lot of sense for both fighters. Alexander has appeared to be a much stronger fighter at 147 than he was at the lower weight.
He won his debut there in February 2012 by one-sided unanimous decision against Matthysse's equally tough countryman, Marcos Maidana.
Alexander holds the IBF welterweight title, and is sometimes mentioned as a likely future opponent for Floyd Mayweather. His fighting style does not always thrill fans, but he is legitimately among the top 147-pound fighters on the planet.
Unless he completely smashed Alexander in the rematch, I'm not sure beating Alexander would be enough to make Matthysse a universally recognized pound-for-pound top 10. But it would avenge one of his only two losses and force him into the conversation for every big fight happening at 147.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Before this fight is likely to happen, Matthysse will probably already be a pound-for-pound, top-10 fighter, and he will likely have beaten one or more of the other names on this list.
But provided Floyd Mayweather Jr. successfully gets past Saul Alvarez in September, I predict Matthysse will be one of the fighters fans start clamoring to see the pound-for-pound king take on next.
An aggressive fighter like Matthysse may seem nearly made-to-order for a brilliant counterpuncher like Mayweather. But Matthysse's offensive attack is very technical. He excels at throwing a punch or flurry and then moving into perfect position for his next attack.
Matthysse does a lot more than simply come forward, looking to brawl. And Mayweather would be at least 37 by the time this fight could ever even take place.
Beating Mayweather is a tough proposition for any fighter. Given his size limitations, he's running out of opponents to face.
He'll still have four more fights left on his contract after he fights Canelo, and it's tough for me to come up with a list of four worthy candidates that doesn't include Matthysse.
The Argentinian tough guy has skyrocketed in popularity with American fans over the past few years, and he shows no sign of slowing down.
If Matthysse remains on his current trajectory, there will be a steadily building fan hunger for Mayweather to fight him.