In May, RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia was ringside at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City when No. 1-rated contender Lucas Matthysse destroyed IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson, dropping him three times on the way to a third-round knockout.
The stoppage was the sixth-straight victory with as many consecutive knockouts for Matthysse (34-2, 32 knockouts), who slammed Peterson to the canvas for the second knockdown as the fighters traded left hooks — one of Garcia’s best punches.
When the fight ended, referee Steve Smoger was standing over the grounded Peterson, protecting him from further damage.
Later, as the network cameras found Garcia in the audience, there were some obsevers who thought they saw fear in the Philadelphia fighter’s eyes.
But the younger fighter appears ready to cast doubt on those assertions, given Thursday’s announcement by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer that Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs), 25, is set to put his WBA and WBC belts on the line against Matthysse, 30, on the Sept. 14 undercard of a Showtime Pay Per View-televised blockbuster main event featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“All of these people who wrote that Danny was scared of Lucas, well, you just have a lot of egg on your face,” said Schaefer. “Danny Garcia is never scared of anyone. He wanted that fight more than any other fight…From a fighter point of view, obviously, Lucas Matthysse wanted the fight, and Danny Garcia wanted the fight, so you really didn’t have much of a debate and much issues with the fighters.”
“But this is, by very, very, very far, the most expensive fight ever put as the second fight on a pay per view. So that took a lot of maneuvering and a lot of negotiation and a lot of other things and a lot of money to get it done, and that really was the main reason why it took so long. Because I felt that this is one of the most anticipated fights in the sport. These are two great, great fighters, and it has Fight of The Year written all over it.”
In his last fight in April against ex-titleholder Zab Judah, Garcia scored an eighth-round knockdown on the way to a unanimous-decision victory over a man who escaped with a split-decision win over Matthysse in November of 2010.
For Garcia, Judah represented his sixth consecutive fight against a current or former world titleholder, following up his fourth-round stoppages over two-division beltwinner Amir Khan and four-division titlewinner Erik Morales last year.
Against Mathysse, Garcia has all but stated that he is ready to show the public he is far from tentative as he heads into perhaps the biggest challenge of his career.
“This is the fight I wanted, and the fight that I asked for. That is why I’m so happy this fight has been made, and will be a part of this huge event,” said Garcia, who is trained by his father, Angel Garcia.
“I’m more confident than ever in my abilities and I’m going to show it on Sept. 14. Matthysse is a good fighter and has a big punch, but I’m a talented fighter with what it takes to be a champion and stay that way. This is an opportunity for the world to see what I can really do in the ring.”
But Garcia will have to do so against Matthysse, who has not lost since falling to current IBF welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander by disputed split-decision in June of 2011.
“I’m glad I finally get a chance to fight Danny Garcia,” said Matthysse, who dealt Peterson his first loss by knockout.
“This is the fight that the entire boxing world — especially my country Argentina — and I wanted. I want to thank my promoters Golden Boy Promotions and Mario Arano for making this fight possible. On September 14, I will show the world that I am the best 140-pound fighter on the planet.”
The fight between Mayweather, THE RING’s No. 1-rated pound-for-pound fighter, and Alvarez already was a sold-out show less than 24 hours after tickets went on sale.
Adding Garcia and Matthysse threatens to push the event beyond the all-time record for pay-per-view purchases that is currently held by Mayweather’s 2007 win over Oscar De La Hoya, which garnered 2.5 million buys.
“Boxing is at its finest when the best step up to fight the best,” said De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy, “and this is what we have with Mayweather and Canelo and now Garcia and Matthysse. Sept. 14 will be one of the most memorable nights of boxing we have been treated to in a long time.”
Mayweather-Alvarez apparently has eclipsed the ticket-sales mark of $18,419,200 by Mayweather-De La Hoya, according to Schaefer, who said “it’s going to be over $19.5 million, shattering the record of the Floyd versus Oscar fight, not just breaking it, but, yes, shattering it.”
“Garcia vs. Matthysse is a fight fan’s dream matchup,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager, Showtime Sports. “It is a main event-quality fight by itself. To add it to what is already the biggest pay-per-view main event in years, makes the September 14 event the best PPV card in recent memory.”
Asked if the winner of Garcia-Matthysse could be a candidate to face Mayweather, who is the RING and WBC welterweight champion, Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, would not commit.
“Our focus is just on Sept. 14,” said Ellerbe. “There are a number of guys who want to fight Floyd from 140 to 154. There are a lot of guys in the Mayweather sweepstakes.”
The clamor for Mayweather was among the reasons Schaefer issued a gag order on Golden Boy employees as well as himself to eschew the numerous e-mails, texts and phone calls inquiring about whether or not Garcia-Matthysse would land on the Mayweather-Alvarez card.
“It was very difficult, and I really felt bad, because many of the media guys kept calling me and asking me, and I’ve been working diligently behind the closed doors to try to keep it quiet,” said Schaefer.
“Because to get these kind of fights done is not so easy, and I think that keeping it quiet and out of the media was really the key, so you sure were on my ass, and I’m glad that in the end it worked out. The fight fans are going to get a very special treat.”
Schaefer believes that Garcia-Matthysse could do “a $1 million gate” on its own at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a venue near Garcia’s Philadelphia home and where he stopped Morales and defeated Judah.
“For us as a promoter, that would have been more lucrative as well, but this is really for the fans,” said Schaefer. “I believe that the kind of exposure this fight is getting, and the record numbers everywhere, that Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse deserve the kind of attention that they will get by being on this card. So that was my goal, and I’m happy that we were able to deliver.”
A press tour, to include New York, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico, is scheduled for later this month and perhaps early into August.
“We are going to be announcing it sometime probably in the next week, and we might be announcing, the following week, the rest of the card,” said Schaefer.
“And so, we’re basically going to have pretty much events and a constant stream of information and updates and calls and press announcements coming out from now on until the fight, because the calls we were getting for this fight were absolutely unheard of. We might do it in the first week of August, and we’re currently working on all of this, so as soon as we have it ready, we will announce it.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]