Favored Fighters Lemieux, Matthysse, Diaz Prevail on Canelo-Chavez Undercard

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Eric Raskin

Returning to the ring just eight weeks after his Knockout-of-the-Year-frontrunner destruction of Curtis Stevens, David Lemieux thought he was headed for a similarly easy night’s work – until it turned out he’d come up against a chin he couldn’t quite crack. No, Mexico’s Marco Reyes couldn’t deliver the victory the partisan crowd awaiting the Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. main event wanted, but he did them proud with his toughness, forcing middleweight contender Lemieux to go the full 10 rounds in the evening’s co-feature at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) was in seek-and-destroy mode from the opening bell. He cut Reyes over the right eye with a left hook in the second round, and was blasting him with one bomb after another in the third. It seemed to certain to be headed toward an early finish at that point. But Reyes refused to go down, and Lemieux, who famously wilted in his first professional defeat against Marco Antonio Rubio, seemed to start flagging after a pair of fourth-round right hands stiffened his legs ever so slightly.

By the seventh, the Canadian bomber was back in aggressive mode, detonating lefts and rights as blood poured from Reyes’ cut and stained Lemieux’s shoulders. Lemieux got an unneeded cushion on the scorecards in the eighth round, when referee Robert Byrd took a point from Reyes for punching after the bell. Reyes (35-5, 26 KOs) deserves tremendous credit for the punch resistance and heart he displayed, and he even made a game effort to produce upset-generating offense in round 10. But he ultimately had to settle for the moral victory of lasting long enough to hear scores of 98-91 and 99-90 (twice) go against him.

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Remember the Lucas Matthysse who blew through Lamont Peterson and prompted his promoter to call him “the new Manny Pacquiao”? Fight fans got another glimpse of that guy against Emanuel Taylor, as the Argentine “Machine” ended a 19-month layoff with his most brutal offensive destruction since that Peterson fight four years ago. Matthysse scored knockdowns in both the third and fifth rounds, the latter leading a bloody Taylor to wobble badly upon rising and force referee Jay Nady to stop the beatdown at 2:21 of the round.

At age 34, looking to prove he still has it after an upset KO loss to Viktor Postol in 2015, the heavy-handed, pressurizing Matthysse never gave veteran Taylor a chance to get any business done. Lead right hands zipped in, right on point, and soon hooks and bodyshots followed. It was a right hand that sent Taylor (20-5, 15 KOs) to the canvas in round three, and then the fight-ending knockdown came from a left-right-right-left combination along the ropes. Matthysse became the first man to stop Taylor, running his record to 38-4 with 35 KOs and setting himself up for another run in the talent-rich welterweight division.

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In the opening bout of the pay-per-view broadcast, 2012 U.S. Olympian and rising professional featherweight Joseph “JoJo” Diaz got the job done against Manuel Avila but failed to dazzle, settling for a dominant decision win to run his record to 24-0, 13 KOs. Early on, the feeling-out process was to be expected. Unfortunately, the fight never quite blossomed into more than a one-sided chess match, save for one spectacular moment in round nine when 24-year-old southpaw Diaz offered a sense of his talent by unloading a magnificent eight-punch combination to the body and head.

Still, the somewhat power-deficient JoJo couldn’t finish off Avila (now 22-1, 8 KOs), who was reluctant to fully let his hands go throughout the fight, thus limiting Diaz’s opportunities. The final scores were 99-91 on two cards and a clean 100-90 on the third. As a learning experience, Diaz got some of what he needed; as a fight to get fans excited for what comes next, not much was accomplished.

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