Lucas Matthysse made one crucial mistake in his loss to Zab Judah in November in Newark, N.J., next door to Judah’s native New York: He failed to score a knockout, leaving his fate in the hands of judges who handed Judah a controversial split decision.
The hard-punching Argentine said he has learned his lesson.
Matthysse fights Devon Alexander on June 25 in Alexander’s hometown of St. Louis. He said he trusts the judges to render a fair decision if the fight goes 12 rounds but he doesn’t plan to let it get that far.
“I’m not worried at all because it’s not going to go the distance,” Matthysse said through a translator on a conference call Tuesday. “I’m going for a knockout and that’s what’s going to happen. I’m not worried about a decision. I can’t let it get to a decision.”
Matthysse (28-1, 26 knockouts) fell behind in the early rounds against Judah but rallied in the second half of the fight, particularly the last four rounds.
He took control of the action in the ninth round, put Judah down in the 10th and dominated the final two rounds to turn a one-sided fight into a close one. He was certain that he did enough to win but the judges didn’t see it that way, scoring 114-113, 114-113 and 113-114 in Judah’s favor.
Matthysse said his plan was to start cautiously, wear Judah down and then take firm control of the fight. Only the decision caught him by surprise.
“That was the game plan in the Judah fight,” he said. “We felt he was an older guy. We wanted to work the body the first few rounds and then finish the fight strong. I put a lot of pressure on him. The game plan worked perfectly. I thought I won the fight. The judges saw it differently.
“I have nothing to say about that. I learned a lot in the fight. And one of the most-important things I learned is that you can’t take anything for granted fighting in someone’s home town. You have to fight hard and intelligently for every second of every round.”
Alexander (21-1, 13 KOs) is coming off a bitter loss to Timothy Bradley in a title-unification bout in January, a 10-round technical decision – 97-93, 96-95 and 98-93 – that went to the cards when Alexander couldn’t continue after the last of many accidental head butts.
Neither Alexander nor Cunningham gave Bradley much credit. Alexander said, “I’m way better than Bradley but let it slip out of my hands.” And Cunningham said that Matthysse is a more-dangerous opponent than Bradley because of his punching power.
Cunningham did acknowledge that Bradley deserved the decision but both he and Alexander insisted that the setback was more the result of what Alexander didn’t do than what Bradley did.
“I was upset for a couple of weeks,” Alexander said of the Bradley fight. “… It’s not like it was the end of the world. It’s not like Bradley dominated the fight at all. It was just something I didn’t do; I didn’t follow the game plan. I didn’t do the things I was supposed to do in the ring.
“Bradley didn’t do anything I didn’t prepare for in camp. It was all me. I definitely learned from that. Now I’m back 100 percent, 110 percent, and ready to rock and roll?
Why didn’t he do what he was supposed to do?
“It was just one of those nights,” he said. “I just wanted to do what I wanted to do as opposed to what the game plan was. I listened to the crowd and just went out and fought. That’s not how you do it. You follow a game plan.”
Cunningham said the main reason Matthysse was selected as Alexander’s next opponent – instead of a transitional opponent – is that he doesn’t believe his fighter was deficient against Bradley other than straying from the game plan.
“If I didn’t think that Devon is the real deal, exactly who we say he is, then I would take steps back,” he said. “We’d fight a soft touch and start over again. Devon is clearly one of the best fighters in the 140-pound division. There was no need to look for a soft opponent. As far as the Bradley fight, Devon didn’t perform to his capabilities. Bradley got the decision, which he deserved. If you look at the fight … that fight was a a close, back-and-forth fight.
“When I say Devon didn’t perform to his capabilities but it was still a close fight against the No. 1 guy in the division … I know there’s no reason take a step back.”