Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
Of all the ways in which Saturday’s main event between Lucas Matthysse and Viktor Postol might have ended, a knockout victory for the relatively light-hitting Ukrainian had been considered the least likely among prefight handicappers. Indeed, as late as the sixth or seventh round, it seemed far from probable. But that’s exactly what happened, as an increasingly dominant Postol dropped and stopped the favored Matthysse to remain undefeated and claim a super lightweight belt.
The night began nervily for Postol, who was expected to use his long reach and 5’11” frame against the shorter Argentine, but who failed to deploy those physical advantages in the opening few minutes as Matthysse (37-4, 34 KOs) walked him down. Although Postol began flicking a left jab in the second, it was without authority, and Matthysse, seeking to dial in a leaping left hook, carried the air of the one more likely to break through. By the third, however, Postol had settled; his jab was keeping Matthysse at range, his sideways movement was preventing his opponent from getting set and being able to launch punches, and whenever Matthysse threatened to close the gap, Postol wrapped him up tightly and leaned down on him. It wasn’t always pretty – it was in fact a lot like another very tall Ukrainian world champion at his worst – but it was effective.
Then, suddenly, it stopped being so; and yet Postol’s nadir proved to be the launching pad for his ultimate success.
The tide appeared on the verge of turning in the sixth, as Matthysse let his hands go and scored with a lead overhand right, and it was rushing ashore by the seventh. Out of nowhere, that lead overhand right had become Matthysse’s weapon of choice, and it was landing with great effectiveness, rocking Postol and sending him backward. Newly confident, Matthysse mixed in a hook to the body and another to the head, but suddenly Postol was fighting back, nailing Matthysse with a right hand at the end of the round and following up with a combination as the bell rang.
Thereafter, Postol (28-0, 12 KOs) was a man reborn. He was in a rhythm now, picking off a newly-hesitant Matthysse and at one point scoring with a counter jab that spun his foe in a circle. Growing in confidence, Postol mixed in power punch combinations behind his jabs: he had Matthysse at exactly the distance he wanted him, and the Argentine now appeared both clueless about how to change that and reluctant to try.
Even so, the end was sudden and surprising. A lunging Matthysse left hook at the end of the tenth was met by a counter right uppercut and a left hook, and suddenly Matthysse was on his knees. He dabbed at his left eye as referee Jack Reiss began his count and it was immediately evident that it was a count he would not even attempt to beat. Reiss waved the contest to a halt at 2:58 of the round.
"I felt something pop in my eye, so to protect my eye, I stayed down," Matthysse said after the fight." Postol was the better fighter tonight. He's a champion."
“It was a punch we practiced over and over at the Wild Card,” Postol said of the Freddie Roach-run gym where he has trained for his last three contests. “We let him come forward, and toward the end he was leaning forward so he was perfectly set up for that punch. I’m a champion because of Freddie Roach.”
“Before the last round, I told [Postol] that [Matthysse] was dead tired and ready to go out,” added Roach. “This was one of the greatest wins I’ve ever had as a trainer.”