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Judah and Matthysse look more like opponents than contenders

Fighters Network

The winner of the Zab Judah-Lucas Matthysse fight was supposed emerge as yet another player in the deep junior welterweight division. But after 12 rounds of mostly pedestrian boxing, both fighters looked as if they would be more like mere opponents than legitimate threats against the top dogs of the 140-pound weight class.

Judah will probably get the first crack at a 140-pound title as the 33-year-old former welterweight champ won a razor-thin split decision in a bout that was disappointingly tactical through eight rounds but dramatically intense down the stretch.

Judah (40-6, 27 knockouts) jabbed his way to an early lead the main event Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on HBO, but consistent body work from Matthysse during the middle rounds opened the door for a late rally from the undefeated-but-unproven Argentine puncher, who scored a knockdown in the 10th round.

Judah was repeatedly rocked in the 11th round and soundly outworked in the 12th, but he survived to hear the final bell and two scores of 114-113 in his favor. The third judge scored the bout 114-113 for Matthysse (27-1, 25 KOs).

Judah’s victory over the dangerous young prospect was hard-earned, even commendable, but it wasn’t the kind of performance that will have any of the elite junior welterweights — or even some of the lower Top 10 140-pound contenders — shaking in their boots.

Judah, who scored a third-round KO of former lightweight contender Jose Armando Santa Cruz in a junior welterweight bout in July, wasn't as confident or offense-minded against Matthysse.

The former two-time 140-pound beltholder was content to beat the less-experienced fighter to the jab and avoid head shots for much of the bout. Judah occasionally landed flush left hands but he was reluctant to commit to a two-fisted assault after seeing that Matthysse could take his vaunted power. The prospect smiled at him after eating a huge uppercut in the third round.

The tepid pace of the first nine rounds resulted in sporadic booing from the crowd. And those boos weren't just for Judah.

Matthyssee didn't set the world on fire with his performance, either. The younger brother of former welterweight prospect Walter Matthysse, who was knocked out by Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron on HBO in 2006 and 2007, needed to step up his offense and intensity well before the ninth and 10th rounds.

Still, in taking Judah the 12-round distance, he showed that he could do more than punch.

Matthysse, who repeatedly absorbed Judah’s Sunday punch, the left-hand uppercut, proved to have a better chin than his older brother. The 28-year-old Argentine, who has trained in Southern California for much of this year, also exhibited solid stamina for a fighter who had never fought past 10 rounds.

Matthysse was game, competent and a better boxer than advertised. However, he was not the beast that he was hyped to be by his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, coming into Saturday’s fight.

Matthysse reportedly gave Shane Mosley all he could handle in sparring late last year. Some insiders claim that he dropped middleweight champ Sergio Martinez, who he trained with for the Judah fight, in a gym session, in a sparring session. But when it came time to make a statement against a name fighter in the actual prize ring, he fought with the intensity of a sparring partner.

So instead of one more junior welterweight standout to add to the mix, Judah-Matthysse gave the division two high-profile opponents.

And that’s OK.

The cream of the 140-pound crop are going to need marketable opponents in 2011. The top four junior welterweights, as ranked by THE RING, and, are scheduled to face each other in December and January.

Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, the Nos. 1- and 2-rated 140 pounders, have agreed to fight on Jan. 29. Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana, the Nos. 3- and 4-rated junior welterweights, will fight on Dec. 11. HBO will televise both title bouts.

The winners of those anticipated fights are expected to battle each other for junior welterweight supremacy, but the losers will be looking for the kind of opponents who will merit an HBO date and a boost back up the ratings if they win.

Enter Judah and Matthysse.

Either fighter would also make a fine opponent for the winner of the intriguing Victor Ortiz-Lamont Peterson matchup, the co-featured bout to Khan-Maidana.

However the matchups unfold at junior welterweight next year, the division promises to remain interesting and hopefully more entertaining than the closely contested bout Judah and Matthysse delivered.


Former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder Robert Guerrero took a bold step in the lightweight division by out-pointing fellow Californian Vicente Escobedo over 10 rounds in the main support to the Judah-Matthysse bout.

Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 knockouts), who won by scores of 100-88, 98-90 and 96-92, scored knockdowns after landing flush left hands in rounds three and six.

The 27-year-old southpaw was in firm command of the bout until the final three rounds when Escobedo (22-3, 14 KOs) mounted an intense rally.

With the victory, which was televised on HBO, Guerrero is expected to challenge the winner of the Nov. 27 bout between lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis.

Escobedo, who fought well but was out-gunned by Guerrero, is expected to drop down to the junior lightweight division.