LAS VEGAS – The last time Lucas Matthysse fought in the U.S. he was delayed in his trip to Atlantic City, N.J., to face Lamont Peterson because a burglar broke into his home in Argentina and stole some personal items and cut up his passport.
It didn’t do much to distract Matthysse from the business at hand. He laid waste to Peterson in the fight, stopping him on a third round TKO.
Matthysse is back in the U.S., scheduled to meet Danny Garcia in a 12-round junior welterweight title unification bout on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Canelo Alvarez show Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The winner will be the THE RING, WBA and WBC 140-pound champion.
This time Matthysse didn’t have to worry about burglars in Trelew, his hometown. But he did have to deal with Angel Garcia, Danny’s bombastic and often times out of control father, trying to ransack his mind with abusive rhetoric during an undercard press conference Thursday afternoon at the MGM Grand.
It didn’t work.
As Angel Garcia went on a long-winded, rambling rant against Matthysse and members of the media, some of whom have dismissed his son’s chances of winning the match, Matthysse looked on in bemusement. At times Matthysee scratched his unshaven chin. He yawned. He leaned back in his chair with his head tilted back, looking at the ceiling.
“Look, I don’t understand a word he’s saying, so it doesn’t bother me,’’ Matthysse said through an interpreter. “I see the gestures he makes with his face, and it makes me laugh.’’
Garcia probably should have ranted in Spanish, the language Matthysse speaks. But Garcia was playing to the media, which was primarily composed of English-speaking reporters.
Even if there wasn’t a language barrier, Angel Garcia’s hot air would not have had an impact on Matthysse. With 32 knockouts in 34 fights, Matthysse doesn’t appear to be the type to shrivel under a torrent of words.
Matthysse, 30, is battle tested. He was hardened by disappointments in championship matches, having lost controversial split decisions to Zab Judah in 2010 and Devon Alexander in 2011. Both matches were held in the backyard of his opponents. He lost to Judah, a native of Brooklyn, in Newark, N.J., and dropped the decision to Alexander, who was born in St. Louis, in St. Charles, Mo.
He fought Peterson, who is from Washington D.C., on neutral ground and took the decision out of the judges’ hands by knocking down Peterson three times before the referee stopped the match in the third round.
The two losses in close decisions in championship fights taught Matthysse a lesson.
“I made some adjustments. I still fight with the same intensity, but I’m more aggressive to make those changes beneficial,’’ Matthysse said.
One of the adjustments that Matthysse made for the fight against Garcia is that he left Argentina and trained in the U.S. He sparred four rounds with welterweight champion Timothy Bradley, which he described as “really good work.’’
As for that more aggressive approach in the ring, it showed in the fight against Peterson, who is a very good boxer. Matthysse never let Peterson get into a rhythm, putting pressure on him from the opening bell. The results produced a concussive conclusion to a match that many people thought would be a chess match.
Matthysse’s aggressive approach, combined with Garcia’s heavy-handed style, holds out the promise of fireworks. Matthysse said he expects the fight to end in a knockout. But he wasn’t prepared to predict when he might try to bring matters to a close.
“I’m going to look for the victory in 12 rounds, but if the knockout comes, even better,’’ Matthysse said.
The match between Matthysse and Garcia has helped to drive interest in the show on Saturday night. It is indeed a stand-alone main event.
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said there was little discussion over the financial cost of adding such a high-profile fight on the undercard of the Showtime Pay-Per-View event.
“You have to spend money to make money, and Floyd understands that,’’ Ellerbe said.
It is also a showcase for a future Mayweather opponent. It’s a good bet that the winner will face Mayweather in the near future.
“Well it’s obvious that the winner will be a unified champion and someone that would make a good opponent for Floyd someday,’’ Ellerbe said. “But we can’t say when that will happen.’’
So there is a great deal awaiting the winner. But the stakes are even higher for Matthysse. With an impressive victory over Garcia and as a unified junior welterweight champion, Matthysse could supplant middleweight champion Sergio Martinez as the preeminent boxing world champion in Argentina.
Matthysse said boxing is a family tradition. His mother, father, brother and sister are involved. His sister, Edith Soledad, lost a split decision for a world championship earlier this year.
Angel Garcia ranted about Matthysse being some kind of Argentine carpetbagger who wanted to take his son’s titles back to South America. Matthysse said that’s exactly what he was going to do.
“I’m very proud and happy and honored to be on a card of this magnitude,” Matthysse said. “It’s very important, here in Vegas, to put my country on top.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda