POSTED BY KELEFA SANNEH
Floyd Mayweather is the biggest American boxing star since Mike Tyson, although he tends to have a very different effect on the people who see him fight. Tyson was mesmerizing because he scarcely seemed like an athlete: in his prime, he wasn’t merely a competitor, he was a myth come to life, the personification of something very cruel and very powerful; step into the ring with him and you were likely to suffer something much more catastrophic than a mere loss. Even as he unwound, in the nineteen-nineties, he affirmed the sense that a boxing match wasn’t merely a competition but a real-life drama, a big stage where bad things happened. This was true even before that night, in 1997, when Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
This weekend, millions of viewers spent as much as $74.99 to order the pay-per-view broadcast of the latest installment of Mayweather’s years-long effort to undo Tyson’s hard work. Mayweather now ranks among the most skilled boxers of all time, and the combination of his excellence and his prominence is re-athleticizing the sport: reminding fans, especially casual ones, that a boxing match need not be a spectacle or a slaughter. It can be, instead, a contest between two great athletes, with nothing, really, at stake besides winning or losing.
That doesn’t mean that Saturday night’s fight wasn’t compelling—it was, in much the same way that any dominant athletic performance is. Mayweather fought twelve rounds against Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, a big and strong young Mexican who never really got a chance to show how hard his punches were, because he barely touched Mayweather. According to one report, Mayweather threw fewer punches than Álvarez, but landed nearly twice as many; he is a precision puncher, secure in the knowledge that he need not knock his opponent down, or even hurt him, in order to win. At the post-fight press conference, Álvarez had a few red marks on his face, and some swelling under his right eye. But he didn’t look like a man who had been beaten half to death, the way boxers sometimes do. He looked like a man who had competed in a contact sport, and lost.
As soon as Mayweather-Álvarez was announced, most observers predicted exactly this: a relatively easy victory for Mayweather. (The appeal of the fight had more to do, probably, with Canelo’s enormous popularity, especially in his native Mexico, than with his chances.) The one moment of controversy came after the fight was over, when the judges’ scores were announced—a formality, it seemed, given what had come before. Two of the three judges had Mayweather winning, but they saw the fight as a surprisingly close one. The third judge, C. J. Ross, had scored the match a draw, which meant that Mayweather won by what’s known as a majority decision, instead of a unanimous decision. It was hard to look at Ross’s scorecard without being reminded of an article, from before the fight, in Los Angeles Times, about an “onslaught” of bettors laying money on the fight ending in a draw. The article suggested that bettors believed a draw might be likely because it would be good for both fighters (who might get to fight a lucrative rematch), as well as the promoters and the casinos. The article quoted Jay Rood, who is in charge of sports betting at the M.G.M. Grand, where the fight took place. He said, “It’s boxing, it’s always shady.” But he also said he wasn’t worried enough to shut down betting. “I don’t think there’s anything sinister happening,” he said. After some boxing matches, controversies and conspiracy theories are the main stories. But on this night, the case of the inexplicable scorecard was merely a footnote to a fight that was, for better or for worse, rather straightforward.
Among some boxing fans, the most anticipated match of the weekend was the main undercard fight, between Danny García, from Philadelphia, and Lucas Mathysse, from Argentina. Because García is known for toughness and Mathysse is known for punching power, their meeting seemed likely to be full of action, and possibly blood. Instead, García, the underdog, was both clever and brave, slipping some of Mathysse’s punches and withstanding others; his punches caused swelling that nearly closed Mathysse’s right eye, which allowed him to land even more of them, and he won a unanimous decision. The win put García on the short list of the world’s best boxers, and he is now widely recognized as the champion of the junior welterweight division, which has a weight limit of a hundred forty pounds. He has said he wants to move up to welterweight (a hundred forty-seven), where Mayweather often fights, and now García, having beaten Mathysse, looks like a plausible Mayweather opponent—plausible, that is, to get the fight, not to win it.
At a post-fight press conference, Angel García, the fighter’s father and trainer, was asked about the possibility of his son fighting Mayweather. “If that was to happen, I would called it ‘The Holy War,’” he said. “It would be ‘The Holy War,’ because it would be two gifted fighters—spiritual fighters—that God put on this planet to fight.” Maybe so. But if Mayweather has taught us anything, it’s that fights don’t have to be wars—sometimes, a boxing match is just a match.
Photograph by Mark J. Terrill/AP.
KEYWORDS BOXING; CANELO ALVAREZ; FLOYD MAYWEATHER
Report & photos by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, 26-0, 16 KOs, has been on quite a roll over the past two years. He’s captured world titles, won fights big fights, and watched his per fight price go up with each start. He’s accomplished a lot in a short time, but for some reason, has yet to breakthrough to the upper echelon of the boxing world. Garcia had a stellar amateur career, engages in exciting high-profile punch outs, and is running out of room to drape championship belts on his body. But still he struggles for respect.
On Saturday night at the MGM in Las Vegas, Garcia will face off with tough Lucas Matthysse, 34-2, 30 KOs, in a 12-round mega-fight on the Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez mega-mega -fight on Showtime Pay-Per-View. It is the biggest bout of his career thus far.
Unlike Garcia, Lucas Matthysse has not struggled for attention from the fans and media. The Argentine has won his share of TV fights and has looked good doing it, but his status has grown to almost mythic proportions over the past year. His face graces the cover of the current issue of The Ring, and he is generally considered the fighter of the moment. He has been installed as the favorite to take Garcia’s gaggle of title belts as well as the Philadelphian’s position as the champion of the 140-pound world.
The word on the street is that Garcia is in for the fight of his life against Matthysse.
However, for Team Garcia this attitude is par for the course, and one of the things that drives the Philly native to keep winning. One thing is certain, Danny knows that adding Matthysse to his win column would mean an awful lot.
“I feel like after this fight, I could potentially be one of the best 140-pounders that ever put on a pair of gloves,” Garcia said from his brand new DSG Boxing Gym. “That’s how I feel. I’m definitely going to be a bigger name in boxing. I’ll become one of those guys they always mention.”
However, Garcia’s outspoken father and trainer, Angel Garcia, isn’t so sure that the respect due his son will come, even after a victory over Matthysse.
“Listen, they are going to say the same thing they been saying for the last 10 fights – he got lucky,” Angel Garcia said. “They won’t give him respect. I still think nobody’s going to give us credit. They’re going to say that he (Matthysse) already had two losses. Zab beat him and Alexander beat him. Ain’t nothing going to change.”
But how could it not if Garcia beats the respected Matthysse? Danny Garcia is the current boss of the junior welterweight division and Matthysse is his very top contender. A win for Garcia (or Matthysse) makes him the undisputed king of the well-cleaned division.
“He’s a good fighter. You can’t take that away from him,” Danny said. “You don’t become a top contender overnight and have no skills. I don’t consider him one of the best because he never won a world title, and when he had a shot, he lost.”
Matthysse did win the interim WBC junior lightweight title, but that crown was created (or split from Garcia’s full version) for apparent marketing reasons. Few consider it a real championship.
“I respect him for putting gloves on, but that’s about it,” Angel said. “They’ve got him as a killer. I don’t know why, he never won nothing. I’m just disappointed. Danny is champ of the world, and they’re still looking at him like he’s the opponent. Like a nobody.”
The anger over the situation spills out of Angel Garcia’s mouth every time the fight comes up. He wants his son to win for all the usual reasons, but you can tell that seeing Danny prove everyone wrong is a big part of the picture too.
“They really think he’s going to win,” Angel said. “So they’re hyping him up like he’s a killer. I want him to think like that because I want him to open up with Danny. If he thinks he’s going to come in and beat the champion and call it a day, he’s in for a long night.”
While his father seethes, Danny stays calm and focuses his attention on the matchup.
“Anything he can do, I can do better,” Garcia said. “He’s got power, but I got power too. I fought a lot of people with power. It takes more than power to win a fight. I know how he’s going to come at me. What happens when I back him up? I can fight backing up. Can he fight backing up?”
With two such strong punchers in the ring, most believe that the fight will come to a clear-cut resolution. It’s one of the things that makes the fight so intriguing. There really could be, and should be, real fireworks.
“If he comes right out and opens up, the fight’s not going to last long,” Garcia said. “I’m going to fight my fight, but if he makes a mistake, I’m going to capitalize.”
Fans would like nothing more than a head-on collision between the two, but the key to Garcia’s success probably lies in a very different strategy.
“You gotta be smart,” Garcia said. “You got to be smart. Take his power away. Make him miss. I’m going to give him some looks, but I’m going to be myself. I’m not going to change my whole game plan and run around like a chicken without a head. I don’t run. But I’m going to be smart. I’m not going to give him anything easy. He’ll have to earn it.”
Angel Garcia believes his son will back up his words.
“We’re going to be ready on September 14th – mentally, spiritually and physically,” Angel said. “On September 14th, Danny will go in the ring and will come out still undefeated champion.”
“I’m going to make adjustments,” Danny said. “I know what he wants to do. He wants to win in big fashion. I’m just going to be smart, and be ready to go 12 rounds.”
“We can go the distance and still show the world,” Angel said. “Outclass him. Show the world that he’s outclassed. I hope Danny outclasses him and makes him look like a nobody. But if he gets fresh and he opens up and gets clipped, the question is will he be able to handle it? We know Danny has one,” Angel said, pointing to his heart. “Does he (Matthysse) have one? He hasn’t been tested yet. We’re ready to brawl, box, all that. Whatever he brings to the plate, we got some answers for it. Matthysse beat people that he was supposed to beat. That is true. Danny beat people he was supposed to lose to. That’s the difference between a champion and an opponent.”
“I was born for this,” Danny said. “I was born to perform on a high level. It’s nothing to me.”
That better be the case, because this fight will be on the biggest stage possible – the Mayweather-Alvarez fight.
“Pressure? No, no, no,” Angel said. “Floyd and Canelo is the main event. We’re just the undercard. For us, it’s a main event, but to everyone else, it’s just the undercard.”
Hardly. If styles make fights, then Garcia vs. Matthysse will be much more than an undercard bout. My money says the fight will steal the show. And if Garcia can get the win, the respect that has eluded him will finally be his.
“Whether it does or not, I’m going to be happy, and that’s all that matters,” Garcia said.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present
– visit http://www.phillyboxinghistory.com.
- Lucas Matthysse ripping the mitts with Luis ‘Cuty’ Barrera [Behind the scenes part 2] (boxingstrategist.wordpress.com)
- Zab Judah on Floyd’s training, the Canelo fight, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse (boxingstrategist.wordpress.com)
- Lucas Matthysse sharp mitt work as he trains for Sept. 14th Danny Garcia clash [Exclusive footage] (boxingstrategist.wordpress.com)