Coming up in October, we've got a busy slate of fights including HBO and Showtime both active on October 3, Golovkin-Lemieux on the 17th, Klitschko-Fury on the 24th, and more. But two fights in particular will help us figure out the new number one fighter in a division, as junior welterweight stars Terence Crawford and Lucas Matthysse look to take over where Danny Garcia has left off.
Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO) will face unbeaten Viktor Postol in the HBO main event on October 3, with the Garcia-vacated WBC title at stake. Matthysse, 32, is a past victim of Garcia's, as the two met in a highly-anticipated bout on the Mayweather-Canelo pay-per-view undercard in September 2013.
That night, Garcia cut and frustrated Matthysse in a competitive but clear victory, something of an upset to many at the time. Matthysse had been a wrecking ball leading up to that fight, smashing the likes of Humberto Soto, Olusegun Ajose, and perennial contender/titleholder Lamont Peterson in the 15 months before the showdown with Garcia. Since that loss, Matthysse has beaten John Molina, Roberto Ortiz, and Ruslan Provodnikov, staying near the top of the division even with the defeat.
Postol (27-0, 11 KO) isn't any guaranteed win, though. The 31-year-old Ukrainian has a lot going for him. He's a good boxer, and will have nearly a five-inch height advantage against Matthysse, standing at 5'11". The fact that Postol hasn't been as regularly featured on American TV should not lead anyone to think that he can't fight, because he can. He's a standard, fairly predictable boxer without big power, but he also doesn't make many mistakes, and can capitalize if Matthysse gets reckless -- or worse for Matthysse, if the Argentine slugger has to get reckless to get past the reach of Postol.
Unlike Matthysse, Crawford (26-0, 18 KO) has never tasted defeat in his pro career, and has become one of the top rising American stars in the sport since his HBO debut in 2013, when he beat Breidis Prescott. Wins over Alejandro Sanabria and Andrey Klimov followed, and in March 2014, Crawford went to Scotland and knocked off defending WBO lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns to win his first major title.
Crawford has already been widely accepted as the best in another division, as he finished up his lightweight run with wins over Yuriorkis Gamboa and Ray Beltran, bringing big-time boxing to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and helping us remember what boxing audiences can sound like when they give a damn and are emotionally connected to a fighter.
The 27-year-old, nicknamed "Bud," made his junior welterweight debut with a win over Thomas Dulorme on April 18 of this year, stopping the Puerto Rican in the sixth round. Crawford showed the "switch" that has become sort of a trademark of his game, as he was patient, took his time, and didn't worry about losing a couple rounds in the early going. As soon as he caught Dulorme and got a chance to finish him, he did. While not purely an action fighter or power puncher, Crawford has the look of a great finisher, someone who ends a fight when there's a chance to do so.
Also unlike Matthysse, Crawford is not facing someone who figures to be any sort of sleeper threat. Dierry Jean (29-1, 20 KO) has a nice-looking record on paper, but the Haitian-born, Montreal-based fighter is really a fringe contender at best. He was beaten pretty soundly by Lamont Peterson in his first world title shot in January 24, and while he's won four straight since then, none have come against contenders. In fact, none of his 29 wins are over anyone that could be seriously called a contender.
Recently, the 33-year-old Jean has been competing as a lightweight, fighting three of his four post-Peterson fights in that division. He blew out veteran spoiler Jerry Belmontes on June 20 in Montreal, winning a wide ten round decision, which was a lightweight bout.
Considering Crawford was widely hailed as the 2014 Fighter of the Year, and Jean can't be seriously considered a top 10 fighter at 140 pounds, this doesn't figure to be much of a challenge. Matthysse, on the other hand, is facing a top five type of guy in Postol, or at least that's how we perceive it right now. In truth, Postol doesn't have a whole lot more on his record than Jean does, other than Jean lost to Peterson. Postol has never fought anyone as good as Peterson.
If both Crawford and Matthysse are successful in October, the hope for most of us would be a title unification fight between the two in 2016 (or Crawford-Postol, if Postol beats Matthysse). With Top Rank (Crawford's promoter) and Golden Boy (Matthysse) working together for the time being, it seems entirely possible, especially considering how depleted the rosters are at 140 pounds on both sides. That could also lead to a lengthy and ill-advised period of marination, with uninteresting fights lined up instead, but this is all theoretical, so let's not dwell on that nonsense.
Assuming both fighters win impressively in October, who would you think has the better argument to be the top guy at 140, Crawford or Matthysse? Who do you think deserves the spot right now? Does Crawford's impressive work at 135 and win over Dulorme outweigh what Matthysse has done at 140?