Thomas Mattice: ‘The world is sleeping on me’
Thomas Mattice’s career thus far has had a few setbacks. Rather than point the finger at something or someone, Mattice has acknowledged his mistakes and his willingness to learn from them.
Mattice believes he has yet to hit his peak as a prizefighter and is eager to show he can compete against the top junior lightweights in the sport.
The 31-year-old hopes tonight will be a breakthrough performance at the expense of Luis Melendez when they square off at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. The eight-round bout will precede the female junior lightweight unification title fight between WBO titlist Mikaela Mayer and IBF titleholder Maiva Hamadouche (ESPN+, 8:30 p.m. ET/ 5:30 p.m. PT).
Both Mattice and Melendez took the fight on two weeks’ notice after the middleweight bout between Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, who is ranked No. 7 by The Ring, and former titleholder Hassan N’Dam was postponed to the undercard of the November 20 clash between WBO welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford and Shawn Porter.
Mattice (17-2-1, 13 knockouts), who resides in Cleveland, Ohio, most recently fought on June 19, stopping journeyman Deivi Julio in Round 4. The fight came almost four months after stopping Rondale Hubbert in the opening round.
Melendez (16-1, 13 KOs), who is originally from Puerto Rico and now resides in Miami, Florida, has not lost since his third fight as a pro and has split his time fighting between the United States and Colombia. Despite Melendez’s high knockout percentage and having only lost once as a pro, Mattice is confident he can take Melendez’s best punches.
“Just like any other fight, my objective is to take care of business,” Mattice told The Ring Tuesday morning. “I don’t care who I’m going up against. It’s just like another fight for me. I was actually in the gym getting ready for a fight that was scheduled for the following Friday [November 13]. So I’m ready. I’m going to go out there Friday and perform. I’ll be at my best.”
Mattice has fought several times on the popular “ShoBox” series with mixed results. His first appearance came in February 2018, stopping Rolando Chinea in Round 7. That July, Mattice won a controversial split decision over Russia’s Zhora Hamazaryan, who dropped Mattice in Round 2. They would fight to a draw over two months later.
After losing a close decision to Will Madera in February 2019, which was also part of a ShoBox telecast, Mattice squared off against then-unbeaten Michael Dutchover in September of that year. After a slow start, Mattice was getting the better of the exchanges until the fight was stopped by the ringside physician in Round 8 due to a cut above Dutchover’s eye that was caused by a punch.
In his most recent ShoBox outing on February 14 of last year, Mattice lost a close majority decision to Isaac Cruz, who is now scheduled to face Gervonta Davis on December 5 in Los Angeles.
Mattice admits not being at his best or fully prepared for those fights but learned more about himself as a fighter over this time period.
“I was going through a lot of situations during the first Hamazaryan fight,” said Mattice, who is promoted by Vick Green. “That was the first time where I realized I could take a punch, despite the flash knockdown. I got up and kept on fighting. I did better in the second fight.
“With the Crimea fight, I took it on short notice. I took that fight to him and got a great result. I’m not anybody’s steppingstone but when that fight against Dutchover presented itself, I took it. I take nothing away from Dutchover. He’s a good fighter. I just had a different preparation for that fight than anything I had done before. I personally knew he wasn’t going to outbox me. Even with the win, I still didn’t show the best of my ability.”
Mattice made his pro debut at the age of 24 after a modest amateur career. Whether as an amateur or as a pro, Mattice believes the quality of sparring he has received over the years has made him a better overall fighter.
“I started late as an amateur,” said Mattice. “I had 95 fights before turning pro. I was hanging with experienced fighters like Robert Easter. I sparred other top fighters and amateurs, winning some and losing some.
“I sparred with [unbeaten junior middleweight] Charles Conwell. He told me to come train with him. Same with [undefeated welterweight contender Jaron] ‘Boots’ Ennis. His father invited me to train with them.”
After fighting his most recent fights as a lightweight, Mattice will drop down in weight. Both Mattice and Melendez came in at a contract weight of 131.4 pounds.
Despite a few setbacks, Mattice is confident tonight will be his moment to shine and more opportunities will come his way after defeating Melendez.
“I blame myself for the struggles I’ve gone through. I gained a lot of experience over these last several fights. I’m better than what I’ve shown. I have lots of skills.
“The world is sleeping on me. I’m going to release it [tonight]. There is no one out there that can defeat me.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.