CARSON, Calif. — Lucas Matthysse was expected to steamroll through his first fight after the loss to Danny Garcia, but John Molina Jr. had other plans.
Molina (27-4, 22 knockouts) dropped Matthysse twice early in the bout and gave him hell, but his extraordinary effort wasn’t enough to spring the major upset.
Matthysse (35-3, 33 KOs) bounced back and continued to throw his money punch – the left hook – and eventually cracked Molina in an early candidate for Fight of the Year on Saturday from the StubHub Center on Showtime Championship Boxing.
"It did take me a few rounds to get going, but I was able to take control of the fight," said Matthysse, a notorious slow starter, through a translator. "The knockdowns threw me off a little, but I was able to get my punches in."
And get those punches in he did (Matthysse landed more than double his foe per Compubox, 275 to 104.) Besides the superior output, Matthysse’s crisper shots did the greater damage, which were telling as the fight wore on.
“The Machine” fell into an early hole (he was dropped in Round 2 and Round 5) but his tremendous punching power, iron will and resilience was too much to overcome.
Matthysse, THE RING’s No. 1 junior welterweight, absorbed a lot of punishment over the first half of the scheduled 12-round bout, but turned the tables for good in Round 8.
He pinned Molina in a corner and let his hands go until his foe fell into a heap.
The next round, Matthysse laid a beating on Molina. Referee Pat Russell brought himself closer to the action, seemingly close to stopping the bout on a few occasions, but Molina always threw just enough to keep himself in the fight. However, that was just delaying the inevitable.
Matthysse decked Molina for a second time in the fight in Round 10, this time the product of a combination followed by a shove, and at that moment it was clear Molina had nothing left.
Molina somehow made it to Round 11, but 22 seconds into the stanza the fight was over — a third knockdown and Russell had seen enough.
Molina was coming up in weight from 135 (though he was clearly the bigger man) and believed he was a winner in defeat.
"I thought I was going to get him out of there early, but he got it together," said Molina, who added that the extra five pounds aided his punch resistance. "There's a reason he's the No. 1 guy in the division. I took his shot all the way through, and I didn't feel it until the end."
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer walked over to Molina’s after the bout and said: “Tonight was your biggest win.”
You’d be hard-pressed to argue with him. However, Matthysse was the one true victor, and he seems back on track in a loaded 140-pound division.
Matthysse had to dig deep in this bout (he called Molina the hardest puncher he’s ever fought) and the surprising competitive nature of the matchup likely was a benefit to Matthysse. He got in valuable rounds and taught the world – and himself – that he can rally to close the show (Matthysse outlanded Molina 135 to 40 through rounds 8 to 10).
With his comeback fight out of the way, there’s only one man on Matthysse’s mind — Danny Garcia.
"I want the rematch with Danny Garcia or with any champion that gives me the opportunity," Matthysse said, "and next year we’ll move up (to welterweight)."
Thurman makes Diaz quit with rib injury
The bout was over before it really got started.
Keith Thurman was there to make a statement, and he was impressive, but it likely wasn’t what he was searching for when he got the call for his first Showtime main event.
Thurman got the W and looked good doing it, but Julio Diaz retired on his stool citing a rib injury before Thurman could really put on a show.
His long hair neatly braided behind his neck, Thurman dropped Diaz in Round 2 with a left hook. But what really did the damage was one of the many crushing body shots Thurman snuck in, one of which injured Diaz’s rib.
Thurman didn’t blame Diaz (40-10-1, 29 KOs) for quitting, saying “He’s a true warrior, he wanted to win.”
Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs) was simply too fast, too strong and too fresh for “The Kidd” Diaz, who at 34 is no longer in his prime.
The bout was Thurman’s greatest exposure yet and he hopes to fight for a world title in his next outing.
“(Shawn) Porter’s the No. 1 option,” Thurman told reporters following the win. “Porter is what the fans want, and I would love to make the fans happy. We’re two young fighters. We’re the two youngest American welterweights that are undefeated. Pretty soon, there will only be one who is undefeated.”
First though, Porter must get through a mandatory defense against England’s Kell Brook.
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger