By Nat Gottlieb
While the upcoming fight between Lucas Matthysse and Viktor Postol might seem a slight mismatch at a superficial glance, there’s a lot more here than initially meets the eye.
Based on his excellent career, the more battle-tested Matthysse (37-3, 34 KOs) deserves to be the clear favorite for this fight on Oct. 3 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif, airing on HBO Boxing After Dark, 10:15 PM ET/PT. He’s one of the hardest punchers in boxing, a crowd-pleasing warrior’s warrior who has fought many of the best fighters in the loaded junior welterweight division.
On the flip side, the undefeated Postol (27-0, 11 KOs) boxed most of his career fights in his home country of Ukraine, facing no one remotely as good as Matthysse. Plus Postol’s record of having only 11 KOs in his 27 victories seems to indicate he’s not much of a slugger. So why are many boxing insiders greatly anticipating this matchup?
Scroll down the 31-year-old Postol’s record to a fight on May 17 last year against perennial contender Selcuk Aydin. It was in this bout, fighting as the co-feature to Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvardo, that the seemingly light-hitting Ukrainian put himself on the map.
Postol stunned the sold-out crowd by putting on a boxing clinic against a very tough foe and brutally stopped Aydin in the 11th round. It was the first time that Aydin had ever been knocked out in 28 career fights. And man, what an eye-opening KO it was.
Late in the round, Postol threw a hard right that caught Aydin in the temple and staggered him. The Ukrainian followed that with a left hook and then finished off Aydin with a beautifully-executed right uppercut that dropped him where he stood. So powerful was that shot that Aydin couldn’t get up without the help of two of his handlers, who lifted him onto a stool.
That stoppage was an attention grabber for sure and left many observers wondering where Postol’s sudden power came from.
Enter seven-time Trainer of the Year, Freddie Roach. The conditioner has a long track record of turning good fighters into great ones, as he did with Manny Pacquiao and many others. There apparently was something about Postol that caught Roach’s eye when he agreed to add him to his already crowded stable of fighters.
The shocking knockout of Aydin was only the second fight Postol had with Roach. This will be his fourth. Suffice it to say the boxer who steps into the ring against Matthysse is not the same one he was in the Ukraine.
Postol has several other things going for him in this fight as well.
You had only to witness the press conference, when Postol and Matthysse stood side-by-side on the podium, to see the huge height advantage the 5’11” Ukrainian has over the 5’6½” Argentinean. And that’s worth noting because taller boxers have given Matthysse problems in the past.
In what would turn out to be voted Fight of the Year in 2014, Matthysse struggled to beat 5’10½” John Molina Jr., who knocked him down twice early in the fight before getting stopped in the 11th round. A year earlier, Matthysse faced the undefeated, 5’8½” Danny Garcia in a world title fight and lost a unanimous decision that included getting knocked down in the 11th round, too. In both fights, it appeared that Matthysse seemed to have to reach a bit more than usual, and that left him open to sharp counters he normally could avoid.
The loss to Garcia was just the third one in Matthysse’s career, and all three have a common thread: the Argentinean had a hard time with slick boxers, including Devon Alexander and Zab Judah, in addition to the crafty Garcia.
Now along comes Postol, who’s as slick as they come.
Postol was brought up in the famed former-Soviet Union system of boxing, which produced another Ukrainian, Wladimir Klitschko. Like Dr. Steelhammer, Postol is a very technically sound boxer. He fights behind a long-armed jab, moves well in the ring, and is always balanced, poised, and relaxed. Postol had over 300 international fights before turning pro. Clearly the man knows his way around a ring.
So does Matthysse. But he’s at his best when a fighter stands in front of him and comes forward to engage him. Postol is not likely to do that.
Although he fights out of an orthodox stance, Postol’s better hand is his left. Roach believes the reason for that is the Ukrainian is a natural left-hander who converted to an orthodox stance, the same way the great Oscar De La Hoya did. “I’ve watched him in the restaurant and he eats with his left hand and cuts his food with his left hand,” Roach has said.
As Roach does with all of his fighters, the trainer has worked hard with Postol to teach him how to use both hands effectively. He certainly had to be pleased that the Ukrainian used two right-hands to take out Aydin.
Another problem Matthysse will have to overcome is Postol’s strong defense. When attacked, the Ukrainian uses body and foot movement to avoid punches. If you rush him, he takes quick steps backwards. But that could be something Matthysse can exploit. When Postol moves back like that, his feet aren’t planted. If the Argentinean can catch him with one of his powerful punches, he could knock him down. That being said, Matthysse’s reach of only 69 inches will make it difficult to land when Postol is moving out of range.
Postol is also very adept at keeping a fight at distance, where he can use his long arms to land punches without getting hit back. Obviously Matthysse and his handlers will have to find a way to get inside of Postol’s crisp jab and lure the Ukrainian into a brawl. In the past, Matthysse has shown he can fight through a jab, although with Postol’s newly-found power, moving in on him might make the Argentinean vulnerable to a power shot from either hand.
All signs point to this being a great fight.
Undercard Overview: Soto and Orozco Both Have Something to Prove
The co-feature promises to be a non-stop action fight, featuring former two-division champion, Humberto Soto (65-8-2, 35 KOs) taking on unbeaten Antonio Orozco (22-0,15 KOs). Soto, the wily veteran of 75 fights, has won seven straight since getting knocked out by Lucas Matthysse in 2012, and 27 of his last 28. Orozco is an untested Mexican fighting out of San Diego who is emerging as a top prospect in the junior welterweight division.
Both are aggressive, come-forward fighters. The 27-year-old Orozco fights out of a compact stance and throws precision combos with power in both hands. His solid defense will be severely tested by the 35-year-old Soto, who fights in one gear only: high octane. A former junior lightweight and lightweight champion, Soto is hoping a win over Orozco will propel him to a shot at another division title. A win by Orozco will put him on the map and could open the door to a fight with one of the top junior welterweights.