(Lucas Matthysse does damage against Olusegun Ajose; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
While HBO was airing an action fight undercard/boxing purist main event, Showtime was airing an undercard with a boxing technician-type on the undercard/bruising fight main event Saturday. The HBO card somewhat defied expectations. The Showtime card played out more according to script.
Lucas Matthysse might be the best junior welterweight in the world; he’s definitely a hoot, one of the biggest in boxing. Power punchers of Matthysse’s menace are such a joy that you want to see them all the time, against whoever the hell. Olusegun Ajose was a borderline top-10 type, a sympathetic figure for having waited year after year for a shot at some title he’d been promised a shot at long ago, and then he runs into this Matthysse cat and has to take a hellacious beating for the privilege of nothing. He certainly earned his stripes as a sturdy sumbitch, a trait that fighters from Africa share almost universally. When Matthysse wasn’t nailing him with crushing lefts and rights to the head and body and sending his adorable Bjork-like topknots flying, Ajose was throwing slapping punches at the likewise stone-carved Argentine, bravely, foolishly. After nine rounds of grueling punishment, Ajose endured a punch on the break from Matthysse in the 10th that required some time to recover, but in that same round Matthysse landed a pair of brutal straight rights that forced the referee to step in and save Ajose’s head from toppling backward off its neck from a third. Matthysse-Danny Garcia is a helluva fight to figure out who’s the best 140-pounder beyond a shadow of a doubt. We could get crazy and hope for Matthysse vs. the winner of Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado, but Matthysse and Garcia are promoted by Golden Boy and Rios and Alvarado are promoted by blood rival Top Rank. Absent that, more Matthysse on TV, as often as we can get him.
On the undercard, Showtime apparently decided that with one Al Haymon-advised fighter having missed out on the main event — the original welterweight clash between Randall Bailey and Haymon’s Devon Alexander was sidelined due to a Bailey injury — that another deserved to move up to the main event. Middleweight J’Leon Love had relatively little trouble with Ramon Valenzuela, Jr., as he was simply that much faster and more technically adept than his ultra-hittable, needlessly bouncy, beaten-no-one opponent. Valenzuela would occasionally trap Love against the ropes, and he landed enough to raise a mouse under Love’s right eye. In the 7th, Valenzuela turned up the heat and Love made him pay for his aggression with a battering, to the point that a desperate Valenzuela grabbed Love by the leg and nearly tossed him over the top rope, Royal Rumble-style. Referee Jay Nady rightly docked Valenzuela a point for the misdeed. The 8th round disqualification of Valenzuela for another attempted ring ejection was probably excessive. Anyway, Love is a solid talent. It’s about time for him to step up. Oscar De La Hoya’s comment that “We should make love vs. Angulo” is probably not quite as “adversarial sex” as he meant it to sound with the idea of putting J’Leon against Alfredo, and it wouldn’t be my first choice for Angulo, but an opponent about on Angulo’s level makes sense for Love next.
On the Sho Extreme bonus undercard coverage, 19-year-old junior middleweight Daquan Arnett was rather destructive against Jesus Tavera, showing some promise, albeit against an opponent with about as few fights as he had. Arnett is advised by… Al Haymon. Also on Sho Extreme, junior middleweight veteran Ishe Smith probably got himself on TV by virtue of being affiliated with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. of late, and turned in a typical Ishe Smith performance against the faded Irving Garcia, which is to say he did enough smart, hard work to make himself look like a tough out but probably not enough to make people clamor for him.