This week, we take a look at tonight's HBO Boxing After Dark main event, a 140-pound battle between Devon Alexander and Lucas Matthysse.
Devon Alexander was a prospect that excited me when he stepped into the upper tier of competition within the junior welterweight division. Great quickness and hand speed, explosiveness and boxing acumen. But, as with a good number of my colleagues, I felt he lost against Andriy Kotelnik and was quite disappointed with his performance in the Bradley fight.
His competition, Lucas Matthysse, surprised me in showing better boxing skills than I had expected. I really like the way he attacks his opponent's body and can put someone down with either hand. He may be much slower than the St. Louis speedster, but the Argentinian can slip and evade punches, and even when he can't get out safely, has a
very good set of whiskers.
I think Matthysse may lose the first half of the bout on the cards, but will punish Alexander to the body every opportunity he gets. The local fighter will land several good shots early, capitalizing on his speed and better technique. However, I see the Argentinian making it a very tough night for Alexander, eventually wearing him down to earn a stoppage in the championship rounds. Matthysse TKO-11/12
Alexander hasn't looked so great in his last two fights, when I had him losing to Andriy Kotelnik and he actually lost to Timothy Bradley. Notwithstanding, he's still a pretty good fighter with some pretty good wins, good power when he sits on his punches, and the ability to throw in combination. On the other hand, Matthysse has looked more and more like a legitimate contender at 140. His last time out, I thought he did just enough to nick a win from Zab Judah, who happens to be a very similar fighter to Alexander. There is one area, however, where there's a huge difference between Judah and Alexander, and that's stamina. Judah has historically had a tendency to fade late in fights, so recently he's dropped his punch output significantly. Matthysse was able to keep up with Judah punch for punch, and proved he could handle a quick southpaw, but we don't yet know how he'll handle someone who can throw 80 to 90 punches a round for a full 12 rounds. Some guys pick up their game, but others just get overwhelmed by the workrate. Also, I just don't think Matthysse is as tricky of a fighter as Bradley or Kotelnik, although who knows what new tricks he'll pick up the longer he's with Gabriel Sarimiento.
On neutral ground, this would be an even money fight. But as the Kotelnik fight proved, in St. Louis, Matthysse will probably need a knockout to win. While he has the capability to outbox Alexander, Devon is active enough and good enough that I just don't see the Argentine winning rounds clearly enough to take the fight on points. Instead, I suspect we'll hear Harold Lederman wax poetic about Alexander's quick jab that has a lot of flash but almost no substance behind it, as the points keep piling up in Alexander's column. Can Matthysse get the knockout? Maybe - he has good power, and quite possibly is the strongest puncher Alexander has faced other than Juan Urango (who couldn't lay a finger on Alexander because of his slow, predictable and telegraphed style). Then again, I have yet to see Alexander wobbled much, and while he gets hit, he's usually pretty good at not getting hit clean. I think Alexander will take this by unanimous decision in yet another fight where a lot of knowledgable fans will end up crying robbery. Alexander UD-12.
One year ago, you'd have never convinced me that I'd be debating an Alexander vs Matthysse fight were one to be signed, because I was sky high on Alexander during his rise as a prospect under Don King's, uh, "care," and would consistently moan to the heavens that he should be fighting more given his incredible talent. That inactivity may or may not have something to do with the fighter we have today -- one coming off of a bad loss to Timothy Bradley and a bad performance against Andriy Kotelnik where I felt Devon got a huge gift win in a fight that qualifies, to me, as a rare, true "robbery."
I am confident that there's a version of Alexander that beats Matthysse with little difficulty. But what I don't know is if that guy comes to the ring anymore. Fighters coming off of first losses can lose something more than just that last fight. Hell, I thought we saw something very different from Alexander against Bradley, and I believe that his knowing he got lucky against Kotelnik played a part in that performance.
I just think Matthysse is in the right spot here. He has nothing to lose, he's the puncher, and recent Devon Alexander hasn't looked much better than the current, mediocre Zab Judah that skirted past Matthysse last August in a fight that could have also been deemed a gift decision. I've got Matthysse by late stoppage, be it the referee having to intervene, a clean KO, or some kind of cut. Lucas gets him out and doesn't let the iffy judges have a say. Matthysse TKO-10
The boxing world is down on Devon Alexander at the moment, but I like him in this one.
While Matthysse deserved the decision against Judah, he didn't look all that impressive. Perhaps I'm selling him a little short, but to me, it seemed that what took place over the second half of that bout, was more a case of a tough sturdy fighter sticking around long enough to take advantage of Judah's typical late round fade (not to mention that Judah's a mere shadow of his former self these days).
Alexander is far from a defensive whiz, so he'll get a hit a bit - but he's quick enough on his feet, and fast enough with his hands, that he should be able to beat Matthysse to the punch fairly consistently. And his jab, which kept coming up a little short against Andriy Kotelnik, and that was completely taken away by Timothy Bradley, should score some points tonight. Plus, the uppercut that seperated Urango from his senses, could prove decisive against the slow moving Matthysse.
My pick: Alexander by 117-111 type scores in a fight that's probably closer than the official tallies (he's fighting at home and like it or not, that plays a part in the scoring).
To me this fight boils down to whether or not Alexander shows up confident, poised, and with a plan, or if he seems aimless and undetermined, like he did against Bradley and to a lesser extent against Kotelnik. For whatever reason, I'm guessing that Alexander, who is still only 24, can bounce back and outbox Matthysse using his speed. If he doesn't and the Alexander that fought Bradley (or worse) shows up, expect a mid-fight KO from Matthysse, who has KO'd all but two of his opponents and is unlikely to be fighting for a decision on Alexander's home turf. For the record, I'm going with an Alexander UD, but this is a tough call.
This is a classic boxer v puncher match up. Matthysse carries power in both hands but can be agricultural at times, which will leave him open to Alexander's quick counters. I think it's a good fight stylistically for Alexander, he struggled against another technical fighter in Tim Bradley and seems to prefer his opponent's to come forward, which Matthysse will definitely do.
This will be Alexander's first fight since the loss to Bradley so It'll be interesting to see how he approaches the fight, he can't afford to have any lingering doubts about his ability - to be mentally fragile against someone who possesses the knockout power Matthysse does could potentially be career suicide . As long as that isn't the case, Alexander should be too fleet of foot and quick of hand for the Argentinean to contend with.
I see a similar fight to that of Alexander's v Juan Urango, although I expect a courageous Matthysse to hear the final bell. I'm taking Alexander via a points decision around the 116-112 mark.