ATLANTIC CITY – The question kept coming up and Lamont Peterson kept deflecting it, like he was picking off an opponent’s weak jab. How was he going to deal with Lucas Matthysse’s power when they met in the ring for a junior welterweight match at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night?
Peterson waived off the question like a man dismissing a nagging child. But when Matthysse presented the question in a more forceful way in the ring, Peterson couldn’t ignore it and he couldn’t stand up to it. The question landed right on his chin and his knees buckled and he went down.
Displaying the kind of awesome power that has been his calling card, Matthysse (34-2, 32 knockouts) knocked down Peterson three times with a blazing left hook before stopping him on a TKO at 2:14 of the third round before a raucous crowd at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night.
Peterson (31-2-1, 16 KOs) should have been concerned about that power, because it came to bear in the second round when Matthysse sent Peterson to the deck with a left hook that glanced off Peterson’s temple. Peterson got up at the count of four, but he was unsteady on his legs as referee Steve Smoger gave him the count and asked him to step forward. Peterson mouthed the words, “I’m OK.’’ But he was clearly out of it.
What had been a relatively pedestrian fight turned into a fireworks show. Matthysse finished off what he started with a flourish in the third round as he flattened Peterson on two knockdowns. The first one was an atomic left hook that detonated on Peterson’s chin and sent him falling to his back on the canvas. He managed to get up at the count of seven, but you could tell Peterson was on another planet.
Smoger allowed the fight to continue and Matthysse pounced on Peterson with a furious flurry. He clipped Peterson with another left that sent him sprawling along the bottom ropes and spilling onto the canvas.
This time Smoger was left with no choice, but to stop it.
“I used the first round to feel him out and started connecting by the second round,” Matthysse said through a translator after the fight. “I was working with my distance but I knew when I dropped him that he knew how strong I was. Now we all know who the best 140-pound fighter is. No one has dominated Peterson like that. I gained a lot of experience from my two fights with Zab and Devon and now I know I have to win by knockout.”
Matthysse landed 31 of 82 power shots and landed just 1 of 23 jabs in the 105 total punches he threw in the fight, according to CompuBox punch statistics. Peterson threw a total of 99 punches, connecting on 9 of 61 jabs and 14 of 38 power punches.
Peterson said physically he felt fine after the fight and he still had his IBF junior welterweight title, which wasn’t at stake in the fight.
“I got a little lazy with my jab in there,” Peterson said. “I told the referee that he hit me in the back of the head. I felt that I could have kept going. But he hit me with some good shots. I guess he was the better man.”
Matthysse had come up short in his previous two big fights in the America, losing split decisions to Zab Judah at the Prudential Center in Newark and to Devon Alexander in St. Charles, Missouri – practically in their back yards. He was fighting Peterson a few hours from his home town of Washington, D.C., but Matthysse wasn’t going to leave this one in the hands of the judges. He brought it to a concussive end.
It had been a trying week for Matthysse. His home in Trelew, Argentina was burglarized while he was training at Junin two weeks ago. Besides taking personal items, they defaced his passport. He had to apply for another passport and visa to travel to America to take on Peterson. The process delayed his arrival by four days. After an 11-hour flight and a 2-hour car ride, he didn’t get to Atlantic City until Thursday morning.
Matthysse said he didn’t expect the experience to have a negative impact on his ability to deal with Peterson, who was hoping that Matthysse had forgot to pack his knockout punch with him before he left home.
On Wednesday at the press conference, Peterson said he wasn’t too concerned with Matthysse’s power. He viewed getting hit, even by power punchers, an occupational hazard. Besides Peterson said he wasn’t thinking that he was going to get hit cleanly with Matthysse’s best shots. He was so wrong.
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes both Peterson and Matthysse, was practically giddy after the fight. Matthysse’s knockout had been intoxicating for a promoter whose inventory in the 140-pounds division is as deep as the weight class is talented.
“We have a new Manny Pacquiao and he’s from Argentina and his name is Lucas Matthysse,” Schaefer said. “This was not just a win, this was a huge statement. Not just to 140 pounders, but to the welterweight.”
Schaefer already has plans in place for Matthysse to meet Danny Garcia, THE RING, WBC and WBA junior welterweight champion, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 7. He said he could put Peterson on the undercard against Judah, who lost to Garcia at the Barclays Center on April 27.
Schaefer believes Garcia-Matthysse is a boxing fan’s dream match.
“Danny Garcia always has his doubters. He’s underestimated. That’s why this fight between Garcia and Matthysse will be a big fight,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer couldn’t believe what Matthysse did to Peterson, but he’s never going to doubt that power again.
“I was surprised. But I won’t be surprised anymore. I’m not going to wonder if Matthysse is going to knock them out. I will just wonder when he will knock them out,’’ he said.
ALEXANDER POUNDS PURDY
In the co-feature, Devon Alexander (25-1, 14 KOs) stopped Lee Purdy when Purdy’s corner stopped the fight after 7th round. Purdy was taking a heavy beating from Alexander and apparently his trainer Darren Barker had seen enough after seventh rounds and called referee David Fields over to the corner and told him he wanted to stop the fight.
Purdy (20-4-3, 13 KOs) was arguing with Barker in the corner before the stoppage, pleading his case to continue.
“He’s had previous problems with his nose and we didn’t want him to take more punishment,’’ Barker said.
Purdy began bleeding from the nose in the second round after taking several hard uppercuts from Alexander, whose title wasn’t on the line because Purdy couldn’t make weight. He weighed 147.8 pounds and couldn’t shed the final weight in the 2-hour time limit on Friday.
“I loved every minute of it. I knew it would be a big opportunity for me,’’ Purdy said. “I knew the weight would be a big problem. You get a chance to fight a good fighter like Devon you can’t turn it down. But it’s really hard to do it on four week’s notice. I would stay in there until my legs wouldn’t go anymore.’’
Alexander said he hurt his left hand in the first round and had to ditch his strategy, though he couldn’t miss Purdy who stood right in front of him in a crouch with his hands covering his face. But Alexander found plenty of openings – enough that Barker didn’t want his man to keep taking those shots.
“I hurt my left hand in the first round and that disappointed me because that’s what I worked on in camp,’’ Alexander said. “I was on point and popping it, but I had to switch up. He’s a good fighter. He gave me a good fight and I’m thankful for that.’’
Kevin Cunningham, Alexander’s trainer, said the champion was on his way to something great before the fight was stopped.
“I think he would have had a spectacular knockout if he hadn’t hurt his hand. The left is what we worked on in camp,’’ Cunningham said.
Alexander said he wants bigger and better fights now.
“If Amir (Khan) wants it he can have it. If Floyd (Mayweather) wants it he can have it. I want to fight the best,’’ Alexander said.
Photos / Al Bello-Getty Images