DEVON ALEXANDER vs. LUCAS MATTHYSSE
When: Saturday, June 25
Where: Saint Charles, Mo. (Family Arena)
TV: HBO, 6:45 pm. PT/ 9:45 p.m. ET
Weight: Junior welterweight (140 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: None
Also on the card: Tavoris Cloud vs. Yusaf Mack, 12 rounds, for Cloud's IBF light heavyweight title; Cornelius Bundrage vs. Sechew Powell, rematch, 12 rounds, for Bundrage's IBF junior middleweight title; Bermane Stiverne vs. Ray Austin, 12 rounds, WBC heavyweight eliminator
Height / Reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 71 (180cm)
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
Nickname: Alexander the Great
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 21-1 (13 knockouts)
Trainer: Kevin Cunningham
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 4 junior welterweight
Titles: IBF junior welterweight (2010; stripped); WBC (2009-2011; lost it to Tim Bradley)
Biggest victories: DeMarcus Corley, Jan. 19, 2008, UD 12; Junior Witter, Aug. 1, 2009, TKO 8 (won title); Juan Urango, March 6, 2010, TKO 8; Andres Kotelnik, Aug. 7, 2010, UD 12.
Loss: Tim Bradley, Jan. 29, 2011, TD 10.
Height / Reach: 5-10 (180cm) / 72 (183cm)
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 28-1 (26 knockouts)
Trainer: Pablo Sarmiento and Cuty Barrera
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 9 junior welterweight
Biggest victories: Vivian Harris, Feb. 20, 2010, TKO 4; DeMarcus Corley, Jan. 21, 2011, TKO 8 (most-recent fight).
Loss: Zab Judah, Nov. 6, 2010, SD 12.
Skills: Alexander, an ultra-quick stick-and-move specialist, is the boxer in this matchup but Matthysse possesses underrated timing, footwork and technique. The Argentine fighter is a heavy handed stalker who gradually breaks his opponents down but he does so with careful counter punches, intelligent pressure and a pin-point body attack. Alexander, who also has good timing and technique, likes to keep his opponents off balance with his busy southpaw jab until he can set them up for accurate power shots, usually a straight left or a right uppercut.
Power: Matthysse, who has won 26 of his 30 bouts by stoppage, has the highest KO percentage (86.7%) in the junior welterweight division. Even hard-punching countryman Marcos Maidana (whose KO percentage is 84%) takes a back seat to Matthysee. Alexander, who has scored 13 stoppages in 22 bouts, can punch, as evidenced by his KO of Juan Urango, but power is not his bread and butter.
Speed and athletic ability: Matthysse is a solid athlete with tremendous physical strength and good coordination. However, the Argentine has average hand and foot speed, which makes him downright slow compared to Alexander, who is gifted with explosive quickness and world-class reflexes. The St. Louis native also possesses good hand-eye coordination and considerable stamina.
Defense: Both Alexander and Matthysse prefer blocking shots or using in-and-out footwork to evade their opponents’ offense. Although both fighters have decent head movement, neither is particularly adept at slipping punches. With his speed, quickness and solid technique, one would think Alexander could master the finer points of defense but he is not a slick southpaw. Andreas Kotelnik, a boxer with average hand speed, and Urango, a slow and plodding slugger, did not have a difficult time hitting Alexander. Even Junior Witter was able to catch him with left hooks whenever he switched to a right-handed stance. The reason for this is Alexander’s sometimes repetitive offense (throwing the same combination over and over again), which leaves him vulnerable to veteran fighters with good timing. Matthysse is probably a little better at blocking or dodging punches than Alexander, but because of his rather average reflexes and foot speed, he gets caught just as much.
Experience: Alexander has a clear edge in this category. The 24-year southpaw had an extensive amateur career, unlike Matthysse, and he’s fought more pro rounds (128 to 90). Alexander has also faced stronger opposition, including five titleholders. Matthysse has fought three beltholders, Vivian Harris (TKO 4), Zab Judah (SD L 12), and DeMarcus Corley (TKO 8). Alexander defeated Corley three years ago (UD 12) and his last four bouts have come against fighters who were either former or current titleholders (Witter, Urango, Kotelnik and Tim Bradley). All four fighters were rated by THE RING at the time Alexander fought them.
Chin: Neither fighter has been down in their pro career. Matthysse took the best shots of Harris and Judah, both of whom can punch, without flinching. Alexander was backed up and momentarily buzzed by both Kotelnik and Bradley, neither of whom are known for their power. The hunch here is that Matthysse has the more reliable whiskers.
Conditioning: Both fighters take their training extremely serious and neither has ever showed up for a fight less than 100 percent. Alexander, who has fought three 12-round bouts, is more proven over the championship distance than Matthysse, who lost the only 12 rounder he fought (vs. Judah).
Wear and tear: Both fighters are in their physical prime and neither fighter has taken a significant beating in the ring.
Corner: Alexander has the more accomplished trainer, Kevin Cunningham, who has been with the fighter since the first day he laced on a pair of boxing gloves. Cunningham developed Cory Spinks into the undisputed welterweight champion. Matthysse is trained by Luis “Cuty” Barrera and Pablo Sarmiento, the brother of Gabriel Sarmiento who trains middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. Barrera is an inexperienced young trainer. Sarmiento, a world-class lightweight and junior welterweight in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is a competent understudy to his brother.
Outcome: Alexander will thrill his hometown crowd by taking the first two rounds with a quick double- and triple-jab that sets up right hooks and allows him to step around Matthysse to his right. Alexander will look to land hard lefts and his big right uppercut, but he’ll find Matthysse harder to nail with power shots than he thought. The visiting fighter will time Alexander with single jabs, right hands and body punches in the early rounds. These shots will momentarily halt Alexander or snap his head back, but they won’t slow him down. However, by the middle rounds the accumulated damage will begin to take a toll on Alexander’s quickness and his confidence and Matthysse will be ready to take advantage with more counter punches and by doubling his left hook to the body and head. By the seventh round, Matthyssee will be able to land a straight one-two combination that backs Alexander to the ropes. He’ll find that Alexander is a game fighter willing to exchange a long the ropes if forced to, but their in-fighting will favor Matthysse who digs hard to the former beltholder’s body. Alexander will get an ear full from Cunningham, who implores him to reestablish distance, between rounds. Alexander will obey and zero in with jabs and straight lefts to the chest while moving as fast as he can, but Matthysse will be on point by this stage of the fight and ready to fire off counter punches and body-head combinations every time the St. Louis native pulls the trigger. Matthysse will land hooks over and under Alexander’s jab until a lead right followed by a hook separates the hometown hero from his senses.
Prediction: Matthysse by late-rounds stoppage.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.