No belts for Peterson-Matthysse?

Lack of title implications in fight shows silliness of alphabet organizations

Updated: May 16, 2013, 1:25 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

First things first: The Lamont Peterson-Lucas Matthysse fight is a great one. It's one of the best pure matchups that could have been made in boxing. It matches the Nos. 2 and 3 junior welterweights in the world (unified titlist Danny Garcia is No. 1 and probably will fight the winner on Sept. 7). Peterson-Matthysse is also a great style match. Peterson is an excellent boxer who isn't afraid to rumble. Matthysse is a brawler and a knockout artist who looks to decapitate opponents. Both have been involved in fan-friendly fights.

I love the fight and I can't wait to be at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., covering it on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT).

With that out of the way, I have to say it struck me as strange that although both men hold titles -- Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs), of Washington, D.C., has the IBF title and Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs), of Argentina, has the WBC's interim trinket -- this fight is being contested at 141 pounds with no title at stake.

Now, I'm the first person to go after the sanctioning organizations. Anyone who reads my work with even remote regularity should know that. But because Peterson and Matthysse both have belts, shouldn't at least one of them be at stake in this fight?

It makes no sense that two fighters among the best in their weight class will fight one pound over the division limit with neither title at stake and, more important, the loser getting a free pass to keep his belt.

[+] EnlargeLamont Peterson
AP Photo/Brynjar GautiLamont Peterson -- perhaps understandably -- wasn't immediately aware that his bout with Lucas Matthysse would not be fought for Peterson's title.

But the reasoning just goes to show you how silly the alphabet titles can sometimes be in this era.

Matthysse didn't want to give up his interim belt and fight only for Peterson's title, because by possessing the interim title he remains the mandatory challenger for Garcia. Peterson would have been fine with defending his title and even unifying with the interim title. But the IBF, in a sanctioning body move that actually makes sense for a change, wouldn't allow a unification with an interim title.

The purpose, generally, of a fighter owning an interim title in the first place is to ensure that he gets a shot at the full title and also to preserve a higher percentage split in the event the fight goes to a purse bid. An interim titlist gets a greater cut of a purse bid than a regular No. 1 contender.

Matthysse's logic is flawed, however, because if he wins, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer and Showtime are going to make a Garcia fight anyway. And if Matthysse loses, sure, he will still be Garcia's mandatory, but the fight will be worth far less and there's no guarantee it will even be made.

Schaefer, who promotes both fighters, explained the lunacy to me the other day about how Peterson-Matthysse came to be a nontitle fight. It illustrated perfectly the insanity of the sanctioning organizations in that there are so many existing belts that it wasn't worth having even one involved in this fight.

"I had all these different things going on from both sides with this title and that title, and I finally said, 'Look, I don't want to lose the f------ fight over titles. Let's get it done. If it's for the titles, great. If not, fine,'" Schaefer said. "We asked the WBC and the IBF if we could do a nontitle fight, and they said yes. The last thing I wanted is to have to say we lost the fight because of the titles. This is one of the most anticipated fights in the sport."

Schaefer agreed that Matthysse's desire to hang on to his interim title to somehow force a Garcia fight, win or lose, was flawed.

"Just because I promote both fighters [Garcia and Matthysse] doesn't mean they will fight the other guy, and I explained to Team Matthysse that whether you're the mandatory or not mandatory doesn't mean you will get the fight," he said. "You can't force a fight. Garcia might say, 'I'm going to fight somebody else.' So Matthysse having the interim title doesn't necessarily mean he will get Garcia. There's a better chance of him getting it by beating Peterson, with or without the [interim] title. I finally told my matchmakers to just get the fight done."

Peterson was perplexed by the whole situation.

"With me, I always thought that we were fighting for my belt," he said. "I wasn't sure if we were fighting for his belt. But for the most part, that's what I expected until a few weeks ago when it was said that it wasn't.

"But the main thing is, you have two of the top guys fighting each other. To me, I won't say belts don't mean anything, but as far as where I'm trying to be in this sport and trying to be the best fighter at the weight class and possibly another weight class, those belts mean nothing. I would've made 140 pounds easily and defended it, no problem, not one problem."

[+] EnlargeLucas Matthysse
Tom Casino/ShowtimeLucas Matthysse might have been trying to protect his mandatory status by keeping his interim title out of Saturday's fight, but it's likely a moot point.

Matthysse essentially agreed, ignoring the fact his interim belt won't be the reason he gets Garcia if he wins Saturday.

"Obviously, an agreement couldn't be reached for the title, but I'm fine with it," Matthysse said through translator and Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez. "I'm calm and I'm fine with it because everybody knows that this is an important fight. Whether there's a title or no title involved, this is a very important fight. Two top guys fighting each other, so this is an important fight, but I feel fine. I'm calm and it's still a very important fight."

So, yes, it's a great fight regardless of belts. But by the same token, Matthysse's desire to preserve his interim belt just goes to show how worthless it really is, because it won't be the reason he gets -- or doesn't get -- Garcia in the fall.

And then there's this aspect, which I love:

"By not having this fight for any titles, it saves the fighters a [boatload] of money and us a few dollars, too," Schaefer said, referring to the lack of a sanctioning fee. "But I didn't do it for that. For me, it was more important to get the fight done than to worry about the titles."

There should be a title at stake, but by not having one on the line, it means the fighters and Schaefer are starving the organizations of their piece of the pie. As far as I'm concerned, that's a nice bonus.

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