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HOW HE DID IT: Underrated Technician Matthysse Not Just A Bomber

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Lucas Matthysse (now 34-2 with 1 no contest and 32 Kos) showed why he is arguably the number one junior welterweight in the world –and one of the most avoided men in boxing –with an impressive third round knockout of Lamont Peterson (now 31-2-1 with 16 Kos) in Atlantic City on Saturday night.

Peterson, who had never been stopped in any of his previous 33 fights, was dropped by a left hook in the second round and again in the third. After tasting the canvas once more from yet another left hook, referee Steve Smoger deemed Peterson unfit to continue and wisely called a halt to the action. This is now the sixth fight in a row in which Matthysse has managed to take his opponent out before the final bell.

Everyone and their mother knows that Lucas Matthysse is the owner of some extremely heavy hands, making him pound-for-pound one of the hardest hitters in all of boxing. In this analysis, however, I would like to focus more on Matthysse’s craft and ring acumen, which, I believe, are vastly underappreciated and can be attributed toward many of his knockouts.

It was obvious from the opening bell that Peterson’s game plan was based on controlling and maintaining distance and preventing Matthysse from getting set to hit. For Peterson to have had any kind of success then, he would have had to rely heavily on the jab (boxing’s number one distance regulator) along with lateral movement so that Matthysse would have to keep realigning himself in order to punch effectively and with maximum power. It soon became apparent that neither Peterson’s jab nor any lateral movement were going to be enough to thwart Matthysse’s forward momentum.

Not only did Matthysse successfully block off Peterson’s escape routes via some intelligent footwork and pressure, he also neutralized Peterson’s jab.

It is very important for a fighter to have a varied attack. However, it is equally important that a fighter also has more than one way of defending an attack. Just as a fighter will soon recognize an offensive pattern should an opponent repeat the same technique over and over, a fighter will also be quick to spot and take advantage of an opponent who defends an attack the same way every time. Because Matthysse changed up his defenses for Peterson’s jab throughout the fight, Peterson was unable to time him or lure him into any kind of a trap.

Rear hand parry

Instead of just simply covering up, a skill that all fighters should utilize more often is the rear hand parry to catch and deflect an incoming jab. When attempting to parry the jab, the hand that is on the outside of the attack (elbow side of an opponent’s punch) should redirect the blow either across an opponent’s body, up and over, or down and to the side. Unless a fighter is going up against an opponent who is in an opposite lead to their own, it is not advisable to parry an incoming jab with the lead hand as doing so will leave the lead side exposed for an opponent’s more threatening rear hand. Parrying the jab with the rear hand disturbs an opponent’s rhythm, making it more difficult for them to complete or launch a follow up attack and also creates counterpunching opportunities, particularly for the lead hand (catch and jab).

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Here is Matthysse performing a rear hand parry, catching and redirecting Peterson’s jab at different stages during the fight. 

Outside Slip

The outside slip is probably the safest and most efficient way of avoiding the jab. Whereas the rear hand parry often only leaves the lead hand free to counter with (one can also counter immediately after a rear hand parry with the same hand but it is often more difficult to pull off) slipping to the outside of the jab (elbow side) isolates both of an opponent’s weapons (lead and rear hand) while leaving both hands free to counter with.

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Here is Matthysse evading Peterson’s jab by slipping to the outside. In this position, Matthysse has isolated both of Peterson’s weapons (lead and rear hand) leaving both hands free to counter with.

Inside slip

The inside slip is performed much in the same way as the outside slip, only the head is taken to the inside of an opponent’s jab instead of to the outside. Even though both hands remain free to counter in this position as well, the outside slip is preferred and is a much safer option. Still, Matthysse had a lot success by slipping inside of Peterson’s jab.

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Here is Matthysse slipping inside of Peterson’s jab at numerous stages during the fight. For safety reasons, it is better to slip to the outside of a jab, as opposed to the inside. When you slip to the outside, you are basically isolating both of your opponent’s weapons (lead and rear hand). Slipping inside of the jab, however, is considered more dangerous because only the jabbing hand has been isolated and the danger of an opponent’s rear hand is still present. Matthysse got away with slipping inside of Peterson’s jab simply because Peterson was always preoccupied with the threat of Matthysse’s left hook. Despite the fact that Matthysse would often take his head off line and place it in line with Peterson’s right hand, the threat alone of Matthysse’s left hand kept Peterson’s right hand in check.

Defense is taken to a new level entirely when a fighter begins using it offensively. After pretty much eliminating Peterson’s jab with the rear hand parry, the outside slip and the inside slip, Matthysse began simultaneously slipping and countering off of Peterson’s jab.

For a right handed fighter, the body alignment involved in slipping inside the jab is very similar to the starting motions of a right cross. Therefore, slipping inside the jab and throwing the right cross (to the head or body) is a safe and effective counter.

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Here is Matthysse simultaneously slipping inside of Peterson’s jab and landing a right hand underneath. See how the inside slip places Matthysse in a relatively safe position from which to deliver the right hand. Notice also how Matthysse’s head has been taken off line as he’s throwing his right hand. Slipping left while throwing a right cross is an intelligent pre-emptive counter to lead off with.

Here is another example of Matthysse combining defense and offense simultaneously.

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Here, Matthysse lands a cross counter over the top of Peterson’s jab. Because most fighters aim there punches directly toward an opponent’s center, by taking his head off line and to his left, Matthysse lands his right hand (this punch initiated the first knockdown sequence) while Peterson’s jab misses and ends up somewhere near Matthysse’s right shoulder.

The set up

There’s no denying that Lucas Matthysse is one of the biggest punchers in the sport right now. Even glancing blows seem to put his opponents on Queer Street. However, all the knockout power in the world will amount to nothing unless a fighter can set an opponent up and disguise his real intentions. (Nonito Donaire found this out the hard way against Guillermo Rigondeaux very recently). In boxing, basic punches will not land with any regularity unless a fighter can do something which makes an opponent open up (feinting, drawing, pivoting to gain a dominant angle etc.). For me, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of Lucas Matthysse’s game. Matthysse is brilliant at maneuvering his opponents into such a position –using low contact punches, feints and footwork—so to create an opening for a more telling blow.

Here is Matthysse manipulating Peterson’s guard and defenses by throwing not one, not two, but THREE (double jab, straight right) punches in an attempt to create an opening for his left hook.

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Here is Matthysse throwing three “minor” punches in order to set up one “major” blow. As Matthysse shuffles forward after cutting off the ring, forcing Peterson to the ropes, he throws two blinding jabs (jab feints) to occupy Peterson. While the first jab is thrown short (as a distraction) the second one is thrown much deeper, allowing Matthysse to move in behind it and bridge the gap. From there, with Peterson’s guard slightly raised because of the double jab, Matthysse throws a straight right hand to Peterson’s stomach. This does two things;

  • It positions Matthysse at a more favorable angle to come back with a left hook (spring-loaded his left).
  • It forces Peterson to adjust his guard slightly to compensate for the body attack.

With Peterson hunching over slightly in anticipation of another possible body attack, Matthysse lands a left hook high on Peterson’s head, sending him to the canvas. Peterson never fully recovered from this attack.

Barely seconds into third round, there was more punching intellect from Matthysse.

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During this sequence, Matthysse first slips inside of Peterson’s jab. As Peterson ducks low in response, Matthysse forces him onto his back foot with a blinding jab. With Peterson backpedalling, Matthysse feints a right hand, which draws Peterson’s lead hand away from his guard, and comes back with a hard left. Again, Matthysse is thinking two and three punches ahead in there.

With Peterson wobbled again, we didn’t have to wait too long before the end arrived.

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As both men find themselves slightly out of position, Matthysse is the first to adjust his feet and manages to connect with a compact left hook to the chin, all but ending the fight for Peterson. Although Peterson made it to his feet, his legs were gone and he soon he hit the canvas for a final time after yet another left hook.

At this juncture, I’m hard pushed to think of anyone at 140 pounds that I would favor over Matthysse. Amir Khan certainly has the speed and footwork that may keep Matthysse turning and prevent him from getting set to hit, but ultimately, Khan’s defensive frailties are bound to rear their ugly head at some stage, meaning he would more than likely succumb to Matthysse’s unforgiving power punching. Danny Garcia is a smart counterpuncher with good timing who could possibly hurt Matthysse should he get to him first, but looking at how Zab Judah was able to withstand Garcia’s best and then hurt Garcia himself late in the fight, I have a hard time seeing Garcia coming out on top during any kind of exchange with Matthysse. As I’ve already stated, not only does Matthysse have underrated defense (slipping, parrying etc.), he also has a world class chin –Peterson landed a couple of uppercuts as he was moving inside that would have wobbled many a Jr. welterweight. Matthysse never so much as blinked.

All things considered, it was quite the eye opening performance from Lucas Matthysse –out boxing Peterson from the outside and out fighting him on the inside. Matthysse is not only one of the most damaging punchers currently in boxing, but with his ring intelligence and punch placement, he is also one of the most cerebral. Unlike some punchers who are head over heels in love with their power and aim everything at the head, Matthysse will patiently work the body for a period of time (usually behind straight rights and low jabs), bringing down his opponent’s guard before taking the attack up top. And when he is attacking up top, he is always mixing up straight punches with arcing punches, constantly forcing his opponents to narrow and widen their guard to compensate. Add to this the fact that he almost always takes his head off line while he is punching, and you have a very complete and dangerous fighter indeed.

 

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Erickson Lubin Wins, But Misplaced His Hammer

David A. Avila

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Erickson Lubin misplaced the hammer but found a way to victory over Terrell Gausha by unanimous decision in a slow-developing WBC super welterweight eliminator on Saturday.

Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs), a southpaw slugger, was unable to lower the boom on Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. But he did enough in a tactical battle that only activated into a real fight in the later rounds.

Back and forth the two super welterweights mostly feinted and fired blows at each other’s guard. Few managed to pierce for scoring blows and those that landed were mostly to the body.

“It was a chess match. I respected what he had, he was trying to counter what I had. My trainer was telling me to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid,” said Lubin, whose trainer is the respected Kevin Cunningham.

Gausha, 33, was the more accurate puncher but fired less than Lubin. Though he seemingly scored more often with counter rights, the scarcity of his blows allowed Lubin to control the pace of the fight.

It wasn’t until the mid-rounds that Gausha stepped into a slightly quicker pace. In the 10th, a short right connected and wobbled Lubin who covered up.

“I knew I had hurt him, but he was able to recover,” said Gausha, 24, who tried to finish off the hurt fighter but was unable to land another scoring blow.

“I’m in shape and I was able to recuperate,” Lubin revealed.

It was still unclear who was winning the fight. In the 12th and final round Lubin stepped up the pace and connected with a crisp right hook that clearly snapped the head of Gausha. But he fought his way out of the dangerous corner.

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Lubin 115-113, 116-112, 118-110.

“Gausha is a tough competitor, he’s at the top for a reason,” said Lubin. “I feel I beat one of the top 154s and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Gausha was classy in defeat.

“I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin. He was the better man tonight,” said Gausha.

Lubin now awaits the winner between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario who fight each other next week for the WBC, WBA and IBF super welterweight titles. Showtime will provide the title match on pay-per-view.

Featherweights

Former IBO featherweight titlist Tug Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KOs) floored Cobia Breedy (15-1) twice in the first two rounds but struggled the rest of the way to win by split decision. One judge scored it 115-113 for Breedy and two others for Mongolia’s Nyambayar 114-112 and 114-113.

Nyambayar knocked down Breedy with a counter right cross in the first round and then floored him with four rights and a left hook in the second. After that, Breedy was the busier fighter and no one was able to take control.

“Boxing is boxing. It was a tough fight,” said Nyambayar.

Welterweights

In a solid match Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) was able to find out exactly where he stands against real competition and stopped the unstoppable Juan Carlos Abreu (23-6-1, 21 KOs) in the sixth round by technical knockout in their welterweight showdown.

More than just a knockout win, Ennis discovered that he can indeed take a punch from an elite level puncher.

Nobody questioned whether Ennis had boxing skills or athleticism and power, but nobody knew if he could take a punch. They discovered it as Abreu was able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Dominican fighter pulled out his tricks and connected several times with sneaky rights and lefts. Ennis remained standing.

Abreu was looking to trade bombs with Ennis in the fifth and sixth round and paid the price in getting delivered to the canvas with a pretty right counter uppercut. He survived. But in the sixth a slew of punches along the ropes sent him down again. He beat the count again but during a fierce exchange he was floored a final time at 1:06 of the sixth round. It was the first time Abreu had ever been stopped.

“I feel I put on a wonderful show and got the knockout,” said Ennis. “I feel I showed the division I am here.”

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Fast Results from the MGM Bubble: Pedraza Outclasses Molina Plus Undercard

Arne K. Lang

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The featured bout on tonight’s card at the MGM Bubble was a match between 2008 Olympians. It was a competitive match on paper, but Jose Pedraza turned in one of the better performances of his career while turning away Javier Molina who just wasn’t in Pedraza’s league tonight. The fight went the full 10 with the judges voting for the Boricua by scores of 99-91 and 98-92 twice. A former two-division belt-holder who looked very comfortable in his second start at 140, Pedraza boosted his record to 28-3. Molina, who had won five straight coming in, falls to 22-3.

Pedraza was manhandled by Gervonta Davis in 2017, outclassed by Vasyl Lomachenko in 2018, and upset by Jose Zepeda last year, but showed tonight that he still has plenty of mileage left on his odometer. Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez each own two pieces of the 140-pound title, but Pedraza seems to have found a new gear at age 31 and is nipping at their heels. However, Pedraza also hankers to renew acquaintances with Zepeda and that will likely come first.

In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Efe Ajagba’s higher workrate carried him to a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Rice. The scores were 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Ajagba, the Houston-based Nigerian making his first start under the Top Rank banner, advanced his record to 14-0 (11) but was underwhelming. Rice, the terror of Tijuana taxi drivers, fell to 13-6-1 and solidified his reputation as a useful gatekeeper.

Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who now resides in the Miami area, improved to 5-1 with a unanimous 8-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-3-2). Both appeared on the inaugural MGM Bubble card with Caraballo, fighting for the first time in the U.S., suffering a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Shakur Stevenson. Tonight’s uneventful fight saw Ramirez on cruise control as he won by scores of 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

San Bernardino junior middleweight Leo Ruiz improved to 8-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Cancun’s Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1). Both fighters had a point deducted in round five; Ruiz, 21, for low blows and Solis for spitting out his mouthpiece. The scores were 58-54 and 59-53 twice.

In a fight that wasn’t on the original schedule, Houston super middleweight Christian Montano improved to 10-0 (7) with a 6-round unanimous decision over St. Louis’ Ryan Adams (7-4-1). A three-time national amateur champion, Montano, who is of Columbian descent, had knocked out seven of his previous opponents in the opening round. He looked poorly conditioned tonight but yet won every round on two of the scorecards.

Lightweight Bryan Lua, who hails from the town of Madera in central California’s agricultural belt, returned to the ring after a 27-month absence and scored a one-punch knockout over Chile’s Luis Norambuena. A left hook did the damage, bringing the bout to a sudden conclusion at the 2:27 mark of round two. Lua, (6-0, 3 KOs) won two of three over Ryan Garcia as an amateur. It was a quick turnaround for Norambuena (4-7-1) who lost a 4-round decision in this ring last week.

The first two bouts on the card showcased the newest members of Top Rank’s “Kiddie Corps.” Kasir Goldston and Jahi Tucker, 17-year-old welterweights, launched their pro careers on a winning note.

Goldston, a southpaw from Albany, NY, opened the show with a 4-round unanimous decision over Wisconsin’s Isaiah Varnell (3-3). The scores were 40-36 and 39-37 twice.

Tucker, who trains in the same Long Island town that spawned Buddy McGirt, put away Alabama’s Deandre Anderson (1-2) in the opening round. Anderson came out winging, but the precocious Tucker picked him apart. Referee Robert Hoyle stepped in and stopping the mismatch at the 2:56 mark. As an amateur, Tucker was ranked #1 at 138 pounds while still a sophomore in high school.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 105: Angry Welterweights and More

David A. Avila

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Those welterweights don’t play.

One welterweight just got out of jail and wants to take out his angry frustrations in the boxing ring.

“One of us is getting knocked out. If it gets to where I’m behind on points, I’m just going to come forward and try to take him out, even if I end up getting knocked out,” said Juan Carlos Abreu. ““If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want.”

Standing in front of Abreu (23-5-1) will be one of the top welterweights in America, Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs). This is could be Ennis’ first true test against an experienced foe on Saturday Sept. 19, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise the Premier Boxing Champions card.

Ennis, 23, has been breezing easily since first jumping in the prize ring in April 2016. So far, the competition has been unable to cope with the athleticism he possesses. Will Abreu be the first to pose a problem?

“Whatever he brings, we are going to be ready. I’m going to go out there, do my thing, be smart, have my fun, and get that stoppage at the end of the night,” said Ennis, whose last opponent Bakhtiyar Eyubov was eliminated in four rounds in January. “You can’t just go in there and go for the knockout. That’s how you get tired and lose your cool or even get hit with punches that you shouldn’t be getting hit with.”

Abreu hopes he loses his cool.

“If he stands and fights, it’s better for me. That’s what I want. I really want one of us to get knocked out,” says Abreu of the Dominican Republic who was purportedly jailed for street fighting.

This welterweight matchup is the precursor to the WBC super welterweight eliminator between Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) and Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs).

Gausha and Lubin both have lost once in their pro careers and need a win to get another crack at a world title.

Gausha lost a decision to Erislandy Lara three years ago. Lubin was stopped in one round by Jermell Charlo three years ago. Both realize the nature of the beast.

“I think Gausha has some problems with southpaws, but I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on my game plan and coming out victorious Saturday night,” said Lubin, 24, a southpaw called “the Hammer” for a reason.

Gausha is originally from Cleveland, Ohio but trains in Southern California and has fought four elite southpaws in his career. He believes one more is not a problem.

“This will be my fourth southpaw in a row. So, I’m more comfortable and familiar this time around,” said Gausha, 33, a former US Olympian who trains with Manny Robles Jr. “The guys before me, they all fought each other. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran. They all fought each other. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And you can see that the fights I take, even after a long layoff, they are tough fights.”

Top Rank

Also, on Saturday Sept. 19, heavyweights and super lightweights lead a Top Rank card featuring some interesting bouts that will be shown on ESPN+.

Newly acquired Efe Ajagba (13-0,11 KOs) meets Jonnie Rice (13-5-1) in a 10-round heavyweight clash. It’s Nigeria’s Ajagba’s second fight this year. Though still a little raw he shows immense potential and great natural strength.

Rice fights out of Bones Adams’ Gym in Las Vegas and has some power. He built up his record on heavyweights in Tijuana boxing rings but has some pop. He’s a sizeable heavyweight and good measuring stick for Ajagba.

The main event is a doozy.

Puerto Rico’s Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) meets Southern California’s Javier Molina (22-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas.

This should be good.

Pedraza, 31, is a former WBO lightweight world titlist who lost in his first defense to Vasyl Lomachenko. Nothing bad about that. He defeated Mexico’s Raymundo Beltran for the belt and has shown a penchant for showing up big when you least expect it.

Molina, 30, is a 2008 US Olympian and a member of the fighting Molina family. His brother Oscar was a member of Mexico’s 2012 Olympic team. His other brother Carlos fought for the world title against Amir Khan. Though Javier Molina has never shown great power, he can truly fight.  His last win came against Amir Imam this past February.

Pending Lightweight Clash

Speaking of the lightweight division, is anyone else as excited as me about the looming showdown between the remarkable Vasyl Lomachenko and impressive Teofimo Lopez coming in less than a month?

Lomachenko, 32, the Ukrainian stylist known as “Hi Tech,” has that incredible footwork and ability to control distance. He’s a master of frustrating opponents and imposing his style of darting in and out of danger. But as good as he is, he can’t sell tickets. Only hardcore fans appreciate his peerless boxing skills.

Lopez, 23, hails from Brooklyn and has that ex-factor you can’t teach. He’s pizzazz and panache with a punch. That combination of flair and power excites fans and seemingly makes him a natural gate attraction. But in spite of his electric abilities, he’s facing a master boxer. Is he ready?

Top Rank is known for having a team of matchmakers headed by boxing wizard Bruce Trampler. It makes me wonder why they are pitting these two against each other?

The probable answer: neither sells out an arena alone. May the best man win.

A friend of mine from East L.A., who formerly boxed and comes from a boxing family, shared his knowledge and opinion on the matchup. He has an interesting take.

“His footwork is incredible,” said George Rodriguez about Lomachenko. “Don’t get me wrong, Teofimo is an incredible talent, but Lomachenko has that footwork.”

Any way you look at it, the winner of this clash clearly bumps up his own image.

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) versus Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on October 17. Mark down that date. It will be televised on ESPN.

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