Subriel Matias anxious to make maiden defense of his belt against Shohjahon Ergashev
On Saturday, IBF junior welterweight titleholder Subriel Matias will put his belt on the line for the first time against his mandatory challenger Shohjahon Ergashev on the undercard of David Benavidez-Demetrius Andrade at the Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas.
Matias, rated at No. 4 by The Ring at junior welterweight, has had to bide his time and be patient since bludgeoning Jeremias Ponce to pick up the vacant title in February.
“Finally there is a date, it’s one more fight, do my job, what I know and do, nothing [different],” Matias (19-1, 19 knockouts) told The Ring through Fernando Gaztambide. “The best fighter is going to win that night and it will be the pride of Maternillo.”
The 31-year-old, who has forced his last four opponents to retire during their contest, knows Ergashev should be a difficult proposition but one he is ready for.
“All fights are dangerous, and this will not be the exception,” he said. “I think the danger would be [the same.] I believe that he has not faced an opponent like me and that could be the difference in the final result.”
The challenger enters the contest having not fought in 15-months, hardly the best preparation for his biggest and toughest test so far.
However, Matias isn’t reading too much into that.
“Inactivity depends if you stay in the gym working, the most that can happen is that your timing is off,” he said. “But with good coaches I don’t think it will affect your preparation.”
Harkening back to earlier this year, Matias showed strong mental fortitude to hold off the early charge of previously unbeaten Ponce and break him after his early assault.
“I think he started well, but to maintain a fighting pace like that he had to have [not] good, but great training and good physical work since one exposes one-self to receiving punishment,” he explained. “Perhaps he lacked in anaerobic or physical [condition] and I took advantage of the situation and thank God we made him [retire] in Round 5. I understand that he did not prepare for 12, I think he trained to dispatch me quickly.”
With the win, Matias picked up the vacant IBF 140-pound title and was able to reach one of his goals and earnt him praise from his fellow Puerto Rican champions.
“Becoming a champion was a dream that I had for many years,” he said. “Celebrating my last fight, going and hugging my daughters and that is my greatest happiness and as champions. [IBF bantamweight titleholder] Manny Rodriguez was there and his positive vibe helped me a lot. [WBO junior flyweight titlist] Jonathan ‘Bomba’ González sent me messages of congratulations and that is very gratifying. [Undisputed featherweight champion] Amanda Serrano uploaded a video and that excited me because she is the queen of boxing and the face of boxing in Puerto Rico.
“Being able to do something and achieve it is very satisfying and proud. [I’m] grateful to God for putting Juan Orengo and Pedro Cruz on my path, now comes the most difficult thing, which is staying as champion.”
While some would look into the future, Matias is focused on the here and now and appreciates he has to beat Ergashev before he can look at future targets.
“The goal is to be victorious and we do not expect anything less,” he said of Saturday’s fight. “What is coming [afterwards], I don’t know since the last three fights have happened events that we cannot control, I don’t expect anything.”
Ergashev, rated at No. 9 by The Ring at junior welterweight, won his first nine fights in Russia before moving to America. Since then, the 31-year-old southpaw has shown flashes of his potential, taking the unbeaten records of Sonny Fredrickson (TKO 3) and Mykal Fox (UD 10). However, his team hasn’t been able to lure any bigger names into facing the fighter and had to force his way into the mandatory position.
This fight has the makings of a classic between two very dangerous, offensive minded power-punchers. The one to get his shots off first will have a significant say in who ends up winning. I lean towards Matias since he’s buoyed by the title triumph, while Ergashev has been inactive for over a year. Matias prevails in a war of attrition finally breaking down the challenger in the ninth-round.
Benavidez-Andrade, plus supporting undercard, takes place on Showtime Pay-Per-View, begins at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. The event is also available on FITE.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].