(Josesito Lopez celebrates; credit, Tom Casino, Showtime)
LOS ANGELES — Before a hot-and-cold Los Angeles crowd at the Staples Center, fighters in Showtime’s main event tonight brought their own heating element in the form of nasty leather and solid action, steaming up spectators who came inside the air-conditioned arena to beat the 80-degree heat.
In a prelude to Victor Ortiz being lined up to face Saul Alvarez this coming September, the young man stepped in with sleeper Josesito Lopez and bit off more than he could chew, breaking all the eggs he’d put in his one solitary basket. Lopez powered through a number of hard shots and a badly-swelling face to outlast Ortiz and reportedly break his jaw in a generally fun bout. Lopez scored a technical knockout in the 10th over Ortiz.
In a battle of junior welterweights looking to elevate status and climb into the 140 lb. mix, Humberto Soto and Lucas Matthysse traded gloves to the face and body as if they were that old Henry Akinwande boxing card nobody wanted in the 1990’s. Both men played the give and take game, but it was the hard-hitting and free-swinging Matthysse who came out on top by way of 5th round TKO.
It was an entertaining main card and delivered where it counted, and especially considering the fact that the winners didn’t leave the result up to judges.
Josesito Lopez walked in first to a light chorus of boos, but Victor Ortiz did his ring walk to a smash-up of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and an unknown mariachi tune, which delighted the crowd.
A noticeably thicker Ortiz stared down Lopez during referee instructions like only a true lunatic knows how to do, glaring clean through his opponent as if he were at the nurse’s station in a psych ward.
The fighters appeared somewhat anxious in the 1st, and Ortiz’ southpaw stance created a lot of spinning and twirling episodes in close. Ortiz tried in vain to find Lopez with something big, and a right hand at the end of the 1st may have punctuated matters for Josesito Lopez. The 2nd round saw Lopez walk into a tenacious left hand from Ortiz, though he stormed back briefly and had Ortiz moving backwards moments later. Working outside of his spoiler role a bit, Lopez bashed his foe to the body and take a damaging left-right in return. Lopez weathered the storm momentarily, but found himself buzzed and having to initiate a back-and-forth to dig his way out of the foxhole, which brought chants of “Lopez! Lopez!” from the crowd.
Round 3 showcased a few exciting exchanges that lit up those in attendance, with Ortiz seeming to look for a consistent way in, and Lopez carefully walking Ortiz down, conscious of his punching power and slight speed advantage. A series of right hands from Lopez had Ortiz clinching about halfway through the round, and Victor returned the favor with some inside tussling and well-timed hooks.
Victor Ortiz boxed tentatively to start the 4th, but he either forced Lopez backwards or had him clinching when he landed. Lopez began working a nice counter right uppercut, though, and his fear of Ortiz’ punching power subsided some as time went by. A left hand from Ortiz with a minute remaining had Lopez clinching mindfully, but Ortiz went back to retreating and fighting in spurts, and Lopez was cool with that. For whatever reason, Lopez’ relative inactivity continued in Round 5 until he caught Ortiz with a right hand and the two began to exchange. An over-zealous Victor Ortiz cracked Lopez with a shot to the back of the head — a clearly intentional foul. The break in the action showed the wear on the face of Lopez, who looked to be contemplating a bow-out. Nonetheless, Lopez continued and briefly fought like a fighter possessed before Ortiz raged back with his own stuff. Lopez appeared very game, just out-gunned and battling with a swollen nose.
Josesito came forward in the 6th, finding Ortiz with his right hand before action again became heated and Ortiz shoved Lopez to the canvas, drawing ire from the pro-Ortiz crowd who seemed to think Lopez was going down intentionally and for effect. Action resumed and Lopez accidentally tripped up Ortiz in return, and Vic popped up to land some lefts.
Round 7 began with Lopez looking to clinch to avoid exchanges, and probably wisely, as Ortiz clearly was carrying his punching power into the latter half of the fight while Lopez couldn’t manage to dent the former Golden Boy Promotions blue chipper. Lopez finally found a way through, though, cracking Ortiz with both hands in the last half of the 7th, and Ortiz looked as if he didn’t know what to do about it, prancing away without punching. Right jabs were on the menu early in round 8 for Lopez, but he took them well and went back to suffocating Ortiz on the inside and fighting carefully from range. An overhand right and right uppercut got Vic’s attention halfway through, and they were nullified somewhat by an onward rush from Ortiz.
Appearing worried between rounds, Ortiz came forward more in the 9th, and usually behind a jab or lead hook, but Lopez managed to put himself on the map with his own sharp jabs. A quick salvo from Ortiz did little damage, but a counter left followed by a long left set up more warring, which Ortiz got the better of until Lopez marched forward and closed the round pissed off, landing a few nice sweeping shots as Ortiz literally looked as if he wanted to run away.
Surprisingly — or perhaps unsurprisingly — Victor Ortiz checked out between rounds, complaining of a broken jaw, which prompted his corner to stop the bout.
Ortiz’ post-fight interview was drowned out by the cacophonous booing from the crowd who just a few minutes earlier had his back, though it’s doubtful anything he had to say would have silenced them.
The rough loss brings Ortiz to 29-4-2 (22 KO), though where he goes from this point is uncertain considering his apparent mental instability inside the ring. Make no mistake, though. Ortiz took shots and hung in for most of the fight, if not winning rounds. But once more he didn’t bring a tough fight to a close one way or the other — an unforgivable sin in a very unforgiving bloodsport. He’s gone from cream of the crop prospect and contender, to a point where whether or not a network will take a chance on him once more remains to be seen.
And what will likely be passed over for the more sensational headline of Ortiz “quitting” is Josesito’s mammoth effort in a fight where he appeared to have his bell rung a few times, yet scraped back to make minutes and rounds his, fighting the last few stanzas with a quickly-swelling eye. Victor Ortiz may have declined to exit his corner for the 10th round, but it was Josesito Lopez who put in the work to make it happen. The clinching was a little excessive at times, but Ortiz obliged and did little about it aside from a few fouls.
Lopez, now 30-4 (18 KO), came into the bout without much money behind him and without much chance to win, according to most experts. But the win puts him in a position to command a bit more money than he’s used to, though he’s unlikely to land a fight against “Canelo” Alvarez. Regardless, his stock went up plenty, and he did it on grit.
In the co-feature, Argentine Lucas Matthysse raised his record to 31-2 (29 KO) with a TKO at the end of the 5th round over a man who seemed to be a budding star a few years back in Humberto Soto. The bout was a fun one, offering two-way action that tended to be a “will vs. skill” outing, though both fighters took turns playing both roles at times.
Both Matthysse and Soto walked in before a crowd that appeared and sounded sedated until a young media lady managed to rile them up by throwing t-shirts into the crowd. Apparently the high brought on from the comped garb was enough to keep the pro-Soto crowd’s attention, as they loudly booed Matthysse’s introduction in support of Soto.
Predictably, the 1st round began with both men measuring the other, the first real action being Matthysse shoving Soto to the canvas not long in. Clearly notching himself into a boxer-puncher role, Soto wavered between bouncing backwards and avoiding Matthysse’s shots and lashing out. A left hook from Lucas Matthysse staggered Soto briefly, but the shot drew a warning from ref Caiz. Jabs to the body from Matthysse did little to keep Soto from mostly staying away, though when inside, Lucas’ punching power was clearly superior. Round 2 saw slightly more urgency from Matthysse to open the stanza, but Soto fired back when threatened, showing solid hand speed with whipping left hooks. Finally Matthysse was able to pin Soto to the ropes, but his only offensive option was to hold and hit, as Soto clinched in close. Immediately after the bell sounded, Matthysse landed a great shot that put Soto on his back. Alas, it wasn’t counted.
Round 3 action heated up as Matthysse’s efforts led to Soto standing and trading more than he seemed to want to do, much to the delight of Staples Center fans. Soto’s counters were clean, but he was getting bruised backwards by Matthysse when he stood still for long, which happened to be often in the round. The Argentine’s punching power remained evident into the 4th, though he ate his share of leather to display it. As Soto fell in to clinch, Matthysse consistently landed around his guard and chucked uppercuts in close. Anything Soto did drew a reaction from the crowd, but his nose was beginning to redden.
The 5th saw Soto again fighting off the ropes well, but Matthysse went back to his “catch as catch can” approach, landing when and where he could. Soto’s output appeared slightly better though, and he was snapping Matthysse’s head back when he landed. But a right-left-right combination staggered Soto at the close of the round, and a right hand put him down hard.
A clearly very wobbled Soto looked done between rounds — almost sleepy. Without much hesitation, the bout was waved off in Matthysse’s favor, as his power had clearly caught up.
When asked how he became the first man to stop Soto, Matthysse replied, “Hard work.” And that essentially sums him up. Lucas Matthysse makes up for whatever skill he lacks with determination, though the result likely also had something to do with Soto’s failing legs.
At 32 years of age and having been in a number of difficult, physical fights, Humberto Soto might be short on time remaining in his career considering the combination speed and skill that goes into his style. He put forth a gutsy effort and had moments, if not clear rounds, but he stayed still too long in front of a hard puncher that was able to capitalize. His record moves to 59-8-1 (35 KO).
Not exactly a young buck himself, Lucas Matthysse carries with him the physical strength and punching power that should make him a difficult outing for just about any junior welterweight. Here’s hoping for an all-Argentina bout between Marcos Maidana and Matthysse, which might set a record for testosterone allowed to occupy a boxing ring… this year. And not in a bad way. At the end of the day, Matthysse is fun to watch because he comes to win and doesn’t appear to care much what he’s hit with. He could stand to liven up his game, though, as the lulls in action only hurt him on the cards. Many fans and experts consider him still undefeated, though, with his losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander not exactly crystal clear.
Either way, keep Matthysse on U.S. television.
And for a brief recap of the non-televised undercard, go here.
Undercard aside, kudos to Showtime for televising a fan-friendly card with exciting results, and the matchmaking here was probably the key. Putting in fighters who tend to be in good fights with other guys who lean towards creating good action was a nice treat.