- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
Lucas Matthysse has earned the nickname "The Machine" because, well, that is how he fights -- marching forward all the time and methodically destroying opponents with one knockout after another.
He has won his past five fights by knockout and has scored stoppages in his past 10 victories. He had two losses during that span, both coming via controversial split decisions to former titleholders in their home regions, Zab Judah in Newark, N.J., and Devon Alexander in St. Louis, although Matthysse knocked both of them down.
In a 2011 bout, Matthysse dropped former titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley nine times -- nine times! -- in an eighth-round knockout win.
In September, Matthysse handed Olusegun Ajose, who was 30-0 when they met, his first defeat by 10th-round knockout in a hard-hitting fight to claim a vacant interim junior welterweight title.
In his next fight, Matthysse retained the belt by steamrolling poor Mike Dallas in the first round of an explosive performance. Matthysse has looked so good in recent fights, including a fifth-round destruction of Humberto Soto last summer, that few have been anxious to fight him as he has risen near the top of the weight class.
"Lucas Matthysse is one of the most feared fighters in the game today, most notably because of his crushing knockout power, but I think he's surprised many people with his boxing ability as well," David Itskowitch of Golden Boy Promotions said. "A lot of people that watched those fights [against Judah and Alexander] believe that Lucas won both of them and should be undefeated right now."
But Matthysse's reputation was no deterrent for Lamont Peterson.
Moments after Peterson, as battle-tested as they come, retained his world title by knocking out former titlist Kendall Holt in the eighth round in February, he surprised a lot of people by saying he was interested in facing Matthysse next.
Since they are both with Golden Boy and Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs), the 30-year-old slugger from Argentina, was also interested in Peterson, the deal came together quickly for one of the best fights that could be made in boxing.
Three months later, they will meet in a scheduled 12-round nontitle bout at a contract weight of 141 pounds -- one heavier than the junior welterweight division limit -- on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Peterson-Matthysse winner likely will square off with titleholder Danny Garcia on Sept. 7 in a unification fight that will crown a junior welterweight king.
For Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs), 29, of Washington, D.C., he doesn't quite get all the Matthysse hype he has heard so much about and wanted to be the one to show he doesn't quite deserve it. That is why he picked on him.
"It was nothing about Matthysse that I saw in the ring. It was the media who said things like, 'No one wants to fight him.' I'm in a division, in the same division, and when I hear things like that, that are not true, it kind of gets under my skin," Peterson said. "I'm like, 'I'll fight anyone.' Not being angry or anything, it's just the fact that I want to prove to everyone I'm the best at the weight class.
"A lot of people, when you hear about the best in the weight class, they were saying his name. So, of course, that was the person that I wanted to fight to prove myself and to let people know that someone out here wanted to fight him."
In the co-feature, welterweight titlist Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) makes his first title defense against England's Lee Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KOs), a substitute who took the fight on a month's notice in place of injured Kell Brook.
On the Showtime Extreme portion of the card, unbeaten welterweight prospects Shawn Porter (20-0-1, 14 KOs) of Akron, Ohio, and Toronto's Phil Lo Greco (25-0, 14 KOs) meet in a 10-rounder and 2012 British Olympic bronze medalist Anthony Ogogo (1-0, 1 KO), who turned pro with a spectacular knockout April 27, faces Puerto Rico's Edgar Perez (5-4, 3 KOs).
The third fight on the Showtime Extreme broadcast, time permitting, will be bantamweight Haroon Khan (1-0), the younger brother of former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan who also turned pro April 27 on his brother's undercard, against Vicente Medellin (0-5) of Riverside, Calif., in a four-rounder.
Matthysse has always shown power but now is even more determined to use it after suffering the split decision losses that he thought he deserved to win.
"Early on in my career, I found out that I had a good punch," he said through Golden Boy matchmaker and translator Eric Gomez. "I've trained hard throughout my career to obtain that. It gives me a lot of confidence, and I'm very calm in the fights because I know that the opponents are thinking about in order to land one punch they might get caught with one of my punches. So, obviously, it's a great deal of confidence that I have because of my punch.
"It's one of the most important things in boxing, being able to knock someone out."
Peterson has tasted the canvas before. He was down in the first round of his controversial split decision title win against Amir Khan in 2011. Victor Ortiz knocked him down twice in the third round of their 2010 draw. Then-junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. knocked him down in a lopsided decision win. Still, Peterson claimed that he is not overly concerned with Matthysse's power.
"I'm not worried about Matthysse. I've known him for a while. He's a strong guy," Peterson said. "He's going to bring it all night. Pretty much the way I like it to be and it's going to be a great fight. Everyone keeps asking me about his punching power. I know what I signed up for. I realize I'm going to get hit in the face, but I will be hitting him back. I'm not worried about taking a few punches. I'm prepared to go 12 rounds.
"I won't so much worry about defense too much. I'll worry about just not getting hit clean, and that's always the case in every fight, because at the end of the day, whether a person can punch or not, if the person can punch really hard and he hits you clean, then, yes, you're going to go out. But even if the person can't punch that hard, if he hits you clean you can go out. So I mostly concentrate on not getting hit clean, and that's what I'll do in this fight."
Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer has said since the fight was made that he plans to match Saturday night's winner with Garcia, who got past Judah in their April 27 battle, in September. Peterson and Matthysse know what is at stake.
"Winning this fight on Saturday and doing it in big fashion is going to open doors," Matthysse said. "It's going to open a lot more doors. So it's very, very important -- probably the most important fight of my career. I'm looking for the big fights. I want the big matchups. I want the big names, and it all starts Saturday."
Said Peterson: "I believe I'm at the top level, but at this point a win over Lucas solidifies me as a top guy, not only in the weight class, but a top-15 pound-for-pound guy in the game. It would lead to bigger fights. That's where I want to land.
"If I were climbing a ladder, a win over Matthysse would be a big jump up to the top. I think it will be a hard fought fight. We're both going to be matching each other punch for punch. I'm not going to let him get an inch on me. I'm sure he is thinking the same thing."