On Saturday’s "The One" Pay Per View fight card, headlined by Mayweather-Alvarez, the junior welterweight showdown between undefeated champion Danny Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) and knockout artist Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) may provide the most fireworks. A matchup that could be a main event in its own right, Garcia-Matthysse will determine the top fighter at 140 lbs. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.
The obvious concern is Garcia's chin, which was dented by Zab Judah earlier in the year. Judah landed some thunderous straight left hands in the second half of their fight. Garcia was clearly rattled by a couple of the blows and Judah's offense was significant enough to thwart Garcia's aggression. However, Garcia did a nice job of disguising how hurt he was (especially in the 11th round) and surviving some rocky moments to win the fight.
With that said, Matthysse is the hardest puncher in the division. Featuring a crushing straight right hand and a deadly left hook, Matthysse has a number of knockout weapons. In addition, as Matthysse has improved as a fighter, he has learned how to set up shots better, specifically, by controlling distance, working behind the jab and throwing tighter combinations. Garcia will get rocked in the fight, but will he be able to withstand Matthysse's big punches? And as Matthysse aims for the stoppage, will he leave himself exposed for Garcia's vaunted counters?
Looking at this matchup from the opposite perspective, Garcia might be the hardest puncher that Matthysse has faced as a professional (a case could be made for Judah as well), and Matthysse can definitely be hit. Matthysse likes to sit in the pocket and trade shots, relying on his power and chin to get the better of exchanges. He also looks to fight on the inside and, at times, will take one in order to land one. However, Garcia is a gifted counter puncher who can connect with the left hook, right hand or left or right uppercut. In addition to his wide arsenal, Garcia has spectacular timing and accuracy on his counter shots.
In terms of pure punching power, Matthysse has the edge. But punch placement and timing can really even out the score. If Matthysse comes in recklessly, he could get hit with some massive shots. He's never been down as a professional; against Garcia, we'll see how good his chin really is.
2. Garcia has to land something hard early.
Matthysse is a knockout artist, but he's also cerebral and patient. Against good opposition, Matthysse often takes a few rounds to close the distance and press the attack. As he has developed, he has learned to start faster, but he still can be a tad deliberate. Thus, it's imperative for Garcia to make a statement early in the fight.
Garcia lacks the foot speed or belief in his jab to trouble Matthysse the way that Judah did early in their match. For Garcia, the answer will be to land convincing power shots. His best answer might be 2-3 combinations – right hand to the body, left hook to the head. In addition, Matthysse can be hit on the way in. Garcia needs to use head and upper body feints to draw punches from Matthysse and then counter with what's available. If Garcia can get Matthysse to throw an out-of-position right hand, he can come back with the left hook. If Matthysse's jab is off target, he can counter with the straight right hand or slip the shot and use the left hook to the body.
Whichever combinations that Garcia utilizes, he has to land convincingly enough to stall Matthysse's forward progress, keeping him away from close range. If Garcia can't earn Matthysse's respect early in the fight, it will only be a matter of time until Matthysse tees off on him on the inside.
3. Matthysse must remember to win rounds.
Yes, Garcia has been hurt before, but he has demonstrated the ring savvy to get through rough patches. Garcia's greatest strengths are his poise and comportment in the ring. He doesn't beat himself and he has survived heavy fire from Erik Morales, Amir Khan and Judah to earn decisive victories.
Remember, Judah hadn't been known for his chin, yet he survived 10 rounds to eke out a win over Matthysse. In addition, Matthysse put Devon Alexander on the canvas, but couldn't get the stoppage – he wound up with a controversial loss.
Garcia is a well-schooled fighter with a deep amateur background. It's doubtful that he will fold up like an accordion. Thus, Matthysse can't waste rounds gunning for a spectacular knockout. Matthysse must win rounds. And if he can't land concussive blows, he'll have to work behind his jab and hit what's available. He has to remember to win the fight and not fall behind while trying to make a statement.
4. Matthysse needs to walk in behind something.
As I mentioned earlier, Matthysse can be hit coming in. He sometimes will keep his guard a little too wide or telegraph punches. Garcia is a shrewd fighter. He'll find a way to get past Matthysse's defense given enough time. For Matthysse, he'll get clipped if he moves forward without throwing punches. His jab (whether it lands or not) will be a key to set up shots in close range, but don't rule out either his lead left hook or a lead straight right hand to the body or head.
Matthysse is a complete fighter when he sets up his power punches, but when he stalks fighters or follows opponents around the ring without moving his hands, he is susceptible to big shots. Humberto Soto hit him with a number of impressive punches on the inside, so did Olusegun Ajose and Judah. If/when Matthysse hurts Garcia, he needs to stay under control and not attack recklessly; Garcia can be at his most dangerous when under duress (the Khan fight is a great example of this). Matthysse is one of the more gifted fighters in the sport at mid-range and closer, but getting in is where he's most vulnerable. By closing the distance behind punches, he becomes much more effective.
5. Angel Garcia.
Angel Garcia, Danny's father and trainer, is mostly known for his outlandish statements outside the ring, while his considerable skills as a coach are often neglected by the boxing public. He had a wonderful game plan for disposing of Khan and he wisely instructed his son to feature the right hand to the body against Judah to initiate offense. Make no mistake: Danny will be prepared for this fight. It will be fascinating to see what Garcia's plan of attack will be against Matthysse. Will Angel encourage his son to pick spots in the ring and fight selectively? Use feints and counters? Lead with straight right hands? Angel's game plan will be essential in giving his son an opportunity to win.
Matthysse will hurt Garcia at some point in the fight, but what will be Angel's Plan B? Danny knows how to tie-up and buy time, but can Angel find a solution for how to win rounds after his son has been hurt? It's fun to watch the Garcias (both Angel and Danny) think their way through fights; this will be a supreme test of both of their skills.
I believe that this match will start out in a measured pace, with both fighters respectful of each other's power. Matthysse and Garcia will try a variety of maneuvers to see what they can effectively land on the other. I think that Garcia will take the first couple of rounds based on work rate and ring generalship. He'll have some success going to the body with the straight right hand as well as landing the odd jab here and there.
Ultimately, Matthysse will use his skills in cutting off the ring to turn the fight in his favor. I think that he'll land some powerful lead left hooks and have his moments exchanging right hands. As the fight progresses, the difference in power will manifest. Although Garcia will land a few of his best counters, those shots won't be enough to deter Matthysse from applying his brand of intelligent pressure. By the fourth or fifth round, Matthysse will connect with something truly devastating (straight right hand or left hook) and send Garcia to the canvas. Matthysse will then more freely let his hands go. As he scores, he won't smother himself or permit Garcia to tie up excessively on the inside. Eventually, Garcia will take too many big shots, forcing referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight.
Lucas Matthysse TKO 6 Danny Garcia.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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