Subriel Matias isn’t far off from a possible world title fight. The 140 lb contender is in line for a final IBF eliminator — or, potentially, a vacant IBF title fight — with Jeremias Ponce as we open a new year in boxing.
But first, the 29-year-old Puerto Rican slugger will have to deal with Petros Ananyan this Saturday on Showtime Championship Boxing, as he looks to get even for an upset loss in 2020.
It can’t be ignored that Matias (17-1, 17 KO) is still perhaps most known for being the man in the other corner when Maxim Dadashev lost his life in 2019. A tragedy like that is something fighters always know can happen, any fight, any night — but it has to take a psychological toll when it actually does, too.
There were some wondering, understandably, if Matias had still been dealing with the lingering mental effects of that night when he faced Ananyan in Feb. 2020, just about seven months after the fight with Dadashev.
Ananyan was a sizable underdog, but the Armenian edged out a decision over 10 rounds, ruled down in the seventh round, which made the difference on the cards. Without that knockdown, the fight likely would have been ruled a majority draw, but even that would have been a setback for Matias.
Fighters like Ananyan (16-2-2, 7 KO) who pull an upset like that sometimes wind up losing next time out, or not too long after. Ananyan hasn’t done that, but he has fought just once since, another close bout, a 10-round majority decision win over Daniel Gonzalez last October on a Triller card.
Matias, on the other hand, has fought twice since losing to Ananyan, and has impressed both times out. He overpowered Malik Hawkins in Oct. 2020, and did pretty much the same to Batyr Jukembayev last May.
Subriel has shaken the loss to Ananyan as far as where his career sit. He’s a relevant contender at junior welterweight — No. 9 in the division in our rankings, No. 5 contender to Josh Taylor at The RING, No. 10 contender at TBRB, No. 8 at ESPN, No. 10 at BoxRec.
But there is some unfinished business with Ananyan, and while Matias doesn’t have to deal with it — just as Amir Khan never had to try to get even with Breidis Prescott, for one famous example — he is going to get in the ring on Saturday and try to settle the score, to fully and truly put the loss to Ananyan behind him.
If he does, that eliminator with Ponce should be on the table, and as mentioned, that could wind up a world title fight. Josh Taylor is set to defend his undisputed championship against Jack Catterall on Feb. 26 in Scotland, and there is a chance that Taylor will vacate those belts and move up to welterweight, though with Terence Crawford definitely out at Top Rank, there isn’t an easy big fight to get done there as there would have been before.
With recent form, Matias should be expected to win this weekend. But he’s been expected to beat Ananyan before, too. Styles really do make fights, and sometimes “worse” fighters really do just have someone’s number. As much as there is obviously on the line for Matias, a win for Ananyan would probably jump him into the title mix, too.