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Lucas Matthysse returns: “I am not going to be a stepping stone for anybody”




A fighter taking a long layoff in his prime is a rare sight to see, unless the situation is forced by physical or legal matters. But after a 17-month-long soul-searching recess right during the pinnacle of his career, former WBC interim 140-pound titlist and fan favorite Lucas Matthysse claims that his reasons for staying away from the spotlight for such a long time were purely personal, and that he is ready to make up for his absence in his comeback bout against Emmanuel Taylor (20-4, 14 KO) on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Chavez Jr. mega-bout on May 6th in Las Vegas.

“I just felt like resting a little bit,” said Matthysse (37-4, 34 KO), as he waited to board the plane that would take him to Indio, California, where he is currently putting in the final touches of his training camp under the guidance of Diaz.

“After my last loss I decided to return to Trelew, my hometown. I went back and had a great time for about eight or 10 months. I just enjoyed my family, went fishing, riding horses and motorcycles, and all of those things I hadn’t been able to enjoy before, and just being with my family. Then I resumed training little by little, and here I am, ready to come back”.

For other fighters, spending time with the family usually means staying away from boxing and having normal conversations concerning just about anything else. But that’s certainly not the case with Lucas, whose brother, sister, brother-in-law, father and even his mother were all fighters themselves. Going back to them meant getting fresh advice from the people who shaped his life both inside and out of the ring.

“I left my hometown when I was a kid,” said Matthysse, now 34, who roamed the countryside as a pre-teen alongside other aspiring young fighters including his buddy Marcos Maidana. They picked and sold fruits and vegetables to support themselves as they climbed up the amateur ranks in Argentina.

“Then I lived 10 years away from them in Junin, and this return to my roots was great for me. I needed to rest my head and my body. Those years in Junin were tough because we were alone, me and my wife, with a lot of tough fights and training camps and little rest. I really needed this, to start training when I felt I needed it. Nobody forced me. I did it because I love boxing, and because I am anxious to return.”

Matthysse’s anxiety was surely shared by his promoters, his handlers and especially his fan base in Argentina, who in a rare display of understanding did not turn their backs on him after what they perceived largely as a quit job in his fight against Victor Postol. Argentine sports fans can be quite unforgiving in situations like this one, but they apparently gave Matthysse — who purportedly suffered a fractured orbital bone in his left eye — the benefit of the doubt for his long and meritorious service.

As part of his self-imposed exile, Matthysse tried to remain oblivious to both criticism and praise — and he apparently succeeded.

“Right now I am not using Facebook or any social media platforms, but my sister and my friends tell me about it, and I am aware of the expectations that the fans in the US place on me and in Argentina as well,” said Matthysse, who cut all ties with the outside world as soon as he decided to resume his training, even after being very active on Facebook, where he posted pictures and more than a few misleading random thoughts about his relationship with boxing.

“I am very happy to see that they want me to face the best out there. I am always ready. And now I am back in the game and ready to go all the way.”

During this second part of his career, he is adopting a completely different approach to training and conditioning.

“I started training with my dad Mario, my brother-in-law Mario (Narvaez, brother of multiple champion Omar), with my nephew (Ezequiel) and my sister (Soledad, also a female boxing champion), and my physical trainer Federico. And that will be the idea from now on. We’ll work in Trelew. We have a great gym and a few great fighters. It is difficult sometimes to bring people to help me down there because we are far away, but we’ll make progress little by little and we’ll be fine.”

One of the people Lucas brought to his training camp was Cuba’s William Scull, a super middleweight who brought a lot of power and a long reach to his sparring sessions, as well as former gym buddy ‘Cobrita’ Dominguez from Junin.  His training camp was much longer if compared with previous ones, but it can be perceived as a shorter camp if we believe in Matthysse’s suggestion that it wasn’t really a proper camp at all, but rather a slow return into the groove of things just to start shedding the ring rust little by little.

“Sure, first I needed to get the feel of the ring again,” said Matthysse, about his long and gradual return to the gym. “I had never been out for so long. I am hoping that everything goes well with Taylor and then we will wait to see what comes next. We watched a couple of videos and we did a great job getting ready for him, we worked on a few combinations, a few moves, and now in Indio with Joel Diaz we will put the final touches on the whole thing. If everything goes well I hope we can do another one before the end of the year.”

One of the added challenges that will come in this second part of Matthysse’s career will have to do with his new status as a welterweight, a division with which he flirted in and out, but into which he claims to have climbed for good this time.

“We did a great job in the gym but I know I need to adapt to this weight once and for all. I am excited to return in a different division with new challenges. I’ve been making 140 since I was 16 years old, and now at 34 years old I believe I needed the change. I am focused on this new challenge.”

From now on, he’ll be preparing for this new weight and this new part of his career in a shiny, fully equipped new gym in this southern city smack in the middle of the barren Patagonia region where his family settled a long time ago, and where Matthysse seems to have found the special place he needed in order to earn the inspiration of his friends, many of whom come from the dangerous Mil Viviendas housing project where he lived as a kid and where he is now revered as a hero.

And he will need all of that mojo and inspiration if he is to tackle a division that seemed to be headed towards a post-Mayweather lull, but has been revitalized by a handful of terrific fights. But Matthysse sees a path towards welterweight dominance that is just there for him to take  – one step at a time.

“First I need to move past Taylor, and later I need to get to Danny Garcia, whether it is for a world title or not, or with Thurman or anybody. I know I will need to earn my shot like I always did, with sacrifice and by facing anyone. I am already on that path to tackle those challenges.”

But as possible as this may seem, it is equally possible that his plans will be thwarted by an uninspired performance just like the one that sent him back to the drawing board. And Matthysse claims to be ready for that possibility as well.

“If I am unlucky enough to lose, I will thank everybody and go back home quietly,” said Matthysse, with a chuckle. “But I assumed this comeback with the same responsibility that I always had. I always came well prepared and I know everyone will be watching me to see what I do. I am not going to be a stepping stone for anybody. I believe I was unlucky in my last fight, but that’s it. From there on back, I know I had a great career. I know there are great things coming my way now.”

Confidence was never a problem for Matthysse, who almost always delivered more than what he promised in the ring. And during his layoff he has continued putting his promises in writing, not as signatures on boxing contracts but rather on his own skin, where he continues to pile up one tattoo after another, most of them to further declare his commitment to boxing. Like the one on the right side of his neck, in which a huge dark skull lurks over a boxing ring under the shadows of the Mil Viviendas project, a reminder of the places and feelings he has already experienced and the feelings he wishes to experience again.

His best tattoo, however, is yet to be drawn.

I had two more on the neck, and maybe after this fight I’ll get another one,” said Matthysse, proudly exposing the fresh ink on his already profusely illustrated body. “They promised to do it for free if I win, so I am ready!”

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fan favorite Lucas Matthysse



The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

Arne K. Lang



In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

Ted Sares




When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

David A. Avila



Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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