Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reported last night that a June 25 HBO bout has been agreed to by junior welterweight contenders Devon Alexander and Lucas Matthysse. The fight is likely to land in St. Louis, where Alexander has built an impressive local following.
Both fighters are coming off of the first losses of their professional careers. Matthysse (28-1, 26 KO) has fought since his August 2010 loss to Zab Judah, which was a debatable decision in Newark, and defeated DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley in a wild fight on January 21 in Argentina. Corley was ruled down nine times over the course of the fight, which was halted in the eighth round.
The weekend after Matthysse beat Corley, Alexander (21-1, 13 KO) was largely overwhelmed at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, losing to Timothy Bradley in the "superfight" that wasn't, dropping a technical decision after 10 rounds of action due to a cut caused by a headbutt. Many criticized Alexander for a listless performance that night, the biggest fight of his young career, and for "quitting" when busted open.
It's a good fight for both right now, and needless to say neither can afford the loss, but I dare say that Alexander needs this win much worse than does Matthysse. Matthysse is a powerful puncher and a better boxer than I gave him credit for prior to the Judah bout, but still limited and will probably always find it relatively easy to get work. But a loss for Alexander really derails a promising career in a big way. His stock has dropped considerably over the last year. In March 2010, the 140-pounder wowed viewers with a nasty knockout of iron-chinned Juan Urango on HBO, but then had an iffy performance in August against Andriy Kotelnik, a solid but largely uncelebrated fighter Alexander was expected by most to outclass. His last two performances have revealed a seriously flawed fighter, and though Devon just turned 24 in February, the hype days are over, as is his time as a prospect. He's perceived as a top fighter at 140 pounds and now it's about producing in the big fights.
While I think Alexander has more to lose, Matthysse has more to gain. I think he'll largely be seen as the underdog again in this fight, especially since we saw Zab Judah dominate Kaizer Mabuza recently, which looked like a very different Judah in the ring than the one who fought Matthysse. The tentativeness was gone and Judah looked natural again. So you can logically reason that Zab had an off-night against Matthysse, and still came out with the win. Judah is a faded fighter even at his best these days, and Alexander is in what should be the beginning of his prime years.
But no matter the early chatter about the matchup, I love that once again the 140-pound division is delivering the matchups. In my rankings, I have Alexander ranked No. 4 and Matthysse No. 9, so by my view we have yet another top 10 fight in the weight class. If you look at the number of top ten fights coming out of this division in the last couple of years, it's awesome: Bradley-Alexander, Khan-Kotelnik, Alexander-Kotelnik, Bradley-Peterson, Peterson-Ortiz, Khan-Maidana, Maidana-Kotelnik, Ortiz-Maidana, Judah-Matthysse, and now Alexander-Matthysse and likely Bradley-Khan are going to happen, with Khan-McCloskey also on the schedule right now, and Alexander-Urango was also a top 10 fight at the time. We're seeing the rare division where the best fighters are actually fighting each other, regularly, and it's making the division seem even better than it is, because we're not wondering "what if?" We're actually finding out.