Daniel Matellon: I have always been underestimated
In a boxing environment in which being a Cuban fighter with an illustrious amateur career is synonymous with a highly technical, almost boring style not suitable for American TV, Daniel Matellon wants you to know one thing.
Or maybe that’s how he prefers to be viewed, at least until he is given the opportunity to surprise you and to produce proof of the opposite.
He will have such an opportunity this coming Saturday, June 26, when he will face Mexico’s José Argumedo (24-4-1, 15 KOs) at Arena Alcalde in Guadalajara, Mexico. The card, headlined by the Julio César Martinez-Joel Cordova WBC flyweight title fight, will be co-promoted by Matchroom Boxing, Canelo Promotions and Clase y Talento, and broadcast by DAZN.
And no, Matellon is not the favorite and he has no problem telling you more about it.
“I have always been underestimated and this is something that has always motivated me,” said Matellon, in a phone interview. “I always, always feel motivated about this. I will continue being positive even though everyone underestimates me. They always think I am the underdog or I have less to offer than my opponent and this is something that inspires me to demonstrate what I am capable of, to demonstrate all the things I am capable of doing just to get the win. In all my fights, I’ve felt the same way.”
Matellon (11-0-2, 6 KOs) may not have a lot of fights in his professional record so far but the 33-year old native of Havana is a veteran of a few hundred amateur fights as part of the same generation that produced fighters like Guillermo Rigondeaux and Yordenis Ugas among others. Many of them have become headliners as professionals but others still suffer from the stigma of having developed their skill sets around the idea of boxing as a scoring sport, far from the less refined tenets of professional boxing.
In a way, Matellon believes the hype surrounding Cuban fighters with lengthy amateur careers is counter-productive but he has worked hard during the last five years to separate himself from that crowd after he moved to Panama to train and spar with Chemito Moreno, Liborio Solís and Yonfrez Parejo, developing the earliest stages of his pro career in a country with a long tradition of tough brawlers in the ring.
“It has been a learning experience for me, all these five years,” said Matellon. “I have adapted well to a lot of things, especially to throwing harder punches because, in the pros, you need to punch harder and sit on your punches a lot more. I had a long career as an amateur and, thanks to that career, I have been able to adapt well to professional boxing and it has been a source of pride for me to represent Cuba in the amateur ranks. For me, it has made all the difference to have all that amateur experience.”
Matellon mentioned Yunier Dorticós and Oscar De La Hoya as his two role models growing up as a kid in Havana being trained by his father and uncle, both boxers themselves.
There were, of course, a few bumps along the road. Against Camilo Mendoza in 2018, Matellon was accused of foul play but even that situation was taken as part of his learning process.
“Against Mendoza, I didn’t really hit him with the head. He took a dive,” said Matellon. “If I had hit him with the head, he would have been injured or both of us would have. That headbutt they are talking about was not such. It was a punch. He wanted to make it look like an intentional headbutt to try to win the fight [by disqualification] but it wasn’t like that. It was a punch. It was so hard that he thought it was a headbutt and then he fell to the canvas. And no, there will be no rematch.”
Matellon’s unwillingness to look back is understandable, given his age and the goals he still feels he needs to accomplish. He already lost plenty of time when he was suspended from the national team and later expelled under suspicions that he was planning to defect (which he finally did in 2016) and he is only looking forward now. And against Argumedo, he will have his work cut out for him – and in his foe’s homeland to boot.
“I know my opponent well,” said Matellon about Argumedo, a former IBF strawweight titlist who made three successful defenses of his belt before surrendering to current 108-pound WBA beltholder Hiroto Kyoguchi. “I’ve been watching him for a while now against several opponents and my preparation has been fantastic for this fight. We know that he was an IBF champ at 105 and now he moved up to 108 and we’re ready for him.”
Managed by George Sarantopoulos´ Sparta Promotions, in Panama, Matellon has fought almost exclusively in that nation, with the exception of a trip to Japan, where he defeated Masamichi Yabuki, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, back in September 2018. This trip to Mexico will only be his second pro bout outside his adopted country but he hopes it won’t be his last.
“I saw that fight, where he defeated the unbeaten Venezuelan,” said Matellon, in reference to the upset scored by Mexico’s Esteban Bermudez in his fight against previously unbeaten Carlos Cañizales, “and now we are negotiating with [Bermudez] and with Kyoguchi, who is the ‘super champion’ and there are possibilities that we can jump in the mix but now it appears they will be fighting each other. I just continue my path, step by step, getting ready and stronger for those challenges.”
There is a reason Bermudez and Kyoguchi are part of a “mix” that can be better described as a “mess,” a word that quickly surfaces whenever the WBA is involved in some shape or form.
As the current “interim” titlist (a title not recognized by The Ring, which Matellon won in a great fight against Erick Lopez), Matellon is seeking to validate his belt and upgrade it to the “regular” version (again, not recognized by The Ring) with the winner challenging Kyoguchi for the official laurels. However Matellon is confident that, even though he doesn’t have time on his side, he will be able to clear those hurdles and move on to bigger and better challenges sooner than later.
“The first thing I want to do is to have my first defense of this title and then we can negotiate for other bigger things,” he said. “I hope we can do all that with God’s favor. Trying to get bigger purses, moving up in weight, I think that comes with time. Little by little, I will get it done but, first of all, I need to get this win on Saturday and then I will see better things ahead.”
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