With WBA/WBC titleist Keith Thurman sidelined by injury — and because Thurman wants to take a safe fight in his first bout back from a layoff that could extend past one year — the WBA opted to make this fight between Argentina's Lucas Matthysse and Thailand's Tewa Kiram for its "world" title, with the winner, at least theoretically, in line to fight Thurman. While Matthysse is a known quantity to most boxing fans, Kiram is not.
What is known is that he enters the fight with a 37-0 (27 KO) record, that he has never fought outside Thailand and that he has faced less-than-stellar opposition. But in 2017, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai stunned the boxing world by beating Roman Gonzalez twice and WBC minimumweight titlist Wanheng Menayothin extended his record to 49-0 with a successful defense in November. Will Kiram continue the momentum in 2018?
Rust? What Rust?
Matthysse emerged from a career-long 19-month layoff by fighting Emmanuel Taylor this past May. Though one month short of his 35th birthday, one fight removed from a humbling beat-down against Viktor Postol and competing at 147 for the first time, Matthysse looked sharp and powerful in scoring the fifth-round TKO victory. A right hand in the closing seconds of round one set the tone for the rest of the fight, which saw Matthysse floor Taylor with a right in the third and a series of fighting-ending blows in the fifth. One notable stat from the bout that he averaged 59.8 punches per round in the bout, well above the 28.1 he logged against Postol, and that he threw 46 punches in the first-round, more than the 25 he recorded in round one against Postol.
Matthysse has long been a slow starter (he averaged 43 punches in round one of his 18 CompuBox-tracked fights), so his overall output is a reason to be encouraged. However, while Matthysse led 78-53 overall and 59-31 power, Taylor was the more accurate hitter (30%-27% overall, 27%-18% jabs, 32.6%-32.2% power), so one must wonder about his defensive reactions. Based on Kiram's last three fights, Matthysse will need to be on his game.
Big Fish, Small Pond
Though just 25, Kiram has been a pro for 10 years and has logged 37 victories in 37 fights. That said, his record doesn't have many familiar names; hard-cores might recognize Kaizer Mabuza (W 12) and Randy Suico (KO 1), but the others are mostly head-scratcher. That said, all a fighter can do is beat who is put in front of him, and in his last three fights against Wellem Reyk (KO 5), Vijender Kumar (KO 9) and Ramadhani Shauri (W 12), Kiram has been, for the most part, dominant. In those bouts he has thrown more (71.1 per round to 50.1), landed far more (25.5 to 5.1 total punches per round and 14.4 to 3.4 landed power punches per round) and landed more accurately (36%-10% overall, 26%-6% jabs, 52%-15% power).
But while he carries tremendous power in his right hand — it scored all three knockdowns against Reyk and two of the three knockdowns against Kumar, who was making his pro debut — his best punch is the jab. In his last three fights he has averaged 43.2 attempts per round and 11.1 connects, well above the welterweight norms of 23.7 and 4.9 respective. In 26 profiled rounds, Kiram registered double-digit jab connects 15 times, including 20 in round eight of the Shauri bout, a bout that saw Kiram lead 311-56 overall, 159-15 jabs and 152-41 power.
One bit of caution: Shauri scored a flash knockdown with a right hook in round two and in the 12th an accidental butt opened a cut over the right eye. Will those flaws be targeted — and exploited — by Matthysse?
Inside The Numbers
Matthyeee landed 45.7% of his power punches (last 7 fights), while opponents landed 34.2%. Tewa, making a huge step up in class, landed 51.6% of his power punches, 11 jabs per round (throwing 43.2 per round) and threw 71.1 per round vs. overmatched opponents.
Although Kiram hasn't fought great opposition, his skill set, tremendous power, quick and straight punches and enviable blend of youth and experience combined with Matthysse's age and questionable psyche should make him a very live underdog. Plus, Kiram is the naturally bigger man; he has campaigned at 147 for his entire career while Matthysse is engaging in his second fight in the weight class. One minus is that Kiram is coming off his longest layoff, but that layoff is just 197 days while Matthysse is emerging from a 266-day hiatus and is fighting for just the second time since October 2015.
If Kiram can absorb Matthysse's first big bomb without showing signs of weakness, then he has a real shot at scoring an early upset of the year candidate for 2018. And the guess here is that he'll get it. Kiram by later-round TKO.