Matthysse-Provodnikov Photos: Ed Mulholland | Crawford-Dulorme Photos: Will Hart
By Eric Raskin
The best boxing matches are typically the ones that provide the most drama. The best boxing weigh-ins are typically the ones that provide the least drama. All you can hope for is that the fighters make weight and avoid getting into an impromptu brawl that risks scuttling the contest. Going by those criteria, the weigh-ins for this Saturday night’s HBO split-side doubleheader were both smashing successes.
Lucas Matthysse, Ruslan Provodnikov, Terence Crawford, and Thomas Dulorme all weighed in without incident, coming in under the 140-pound limit on their first attempts. At Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, Matthysse tipped the scales at 139, followed by Provodnikov at 139.5. In Arlington, Texas, Dulorme checked in at 139.2, followed by Crawford at 139.8. This is former lightweight titleholder Crawford’s first fight as a junior welterweight and he looked positively ripped, making you wonder where he was finding an additional five pounds to cut just five months ago.
While the actual making of weight for Crawford-Dulorme was drama-free, their engagement in the traditional stare-down moments later packed plenty of intensity. They went nose to nose for a solid minute, and when underdog Dulorme’s promoter Gary Shaw tried to get the fighters to face the audience and the bank of cameras to pose for photos, both pugilists refused to break their gaze. Instead they started talking trash (inaudibly for the viewing audience, sadly, and presumably in different languages) while their eyes remained locked on each other until members of their teams finally pulled them apart with no formal fighting poses ever assumed.
“I’m ready, this is my year,” Dulorme said through an interpreter. “2015 is the Dulorme year, and I’m going to rip him apart tomorrow.”
Crawford was asked about his move up in weight and whether Dulorme appeared bigger than him. “Not at all,” said the reigning Fighter of the Year. “I feel great. I feel physically strong.”
Some 1,500 miles northeast, Provodnikov and Matthysse got along significantly better than their counterparts in Texas. Their stare-down ended after just a few seconds when Provodnikov broke into a smile, with Matthysse flashing his own pearly whites immediately upon seeing his opponent’s.
“I’m focused, I’m determined, I’m ready to go,” Matthysse simply stated.
“I can only say one thing: I’m not going to disappoint any of my fans,” said Provodnikov. “You’ll see everything you expect to see tomorrow.”
Let’s hope so. The weigh-ins both went according to script. If the fights do as well, this will be a memorable night of gloved warfare indeed.
Photo: Will Hart
By Diego Morilla
Among the dozens of shiny little belts being passed around in the world of boxing these days, the true meaning of the title “world champion” has lost its meaning for many people.
Thomas Dulorme is not one of them.
As a French-speaking native of the island of Saint Martin in his early childhood, and as a resident of Dominican Republic later on, Dulorme developed a strong connection to each of the island-nations where he lived.
But it wasn’t until he found a country of his own to fight for that he came to understand the global nature of his quest for a championship.
“Saint Martin is my origin, the place where I was born, but I lived in Puerto Rico since I was very young, and Puerto Rico has given me everything,” said Dulorme, during a recent telephone interview during the last leg of his training camp in his homeland, adopted or not. “I always represented Puerto Rico, but I love all Latinos.”
Dulorme (22-1, 14 KOs) will have a career-defining chance to represent his people this Saturday April 18th on a HBO Boxing After Dark split-side doubleheader, when he will face lightweight titlist Terence Crawford (25-0, 17 KOs), in what will be Dulorme’s first crack at a world title after being hailed as the next boxing idol to come out of Puerto Rico a few years ago.
Now, Dulorme is in the final stages of a full recovery after being stopped in an early crossroads fight by Argentine challenger Luis Abregu in 2012. But Dulorme has managed to amass a 6-0 winning streak since that fateful night, and the long-awaited title bout is surely a reward for the hard work he has put on since then.
For that, he has recruited a group of similarly globetrotting trainers and advisors to guide him through this challenge, in an effort to minimize the margin of error and to make the most out of an opportunity that many people thought should have come earlier in his career.
“I have a great team for this fight,” said Dulorme, naming people such as Anthony Otero, Felix Pagan Pintor, Oscar “Don Khan” Seary, and the team’s newest addition in Jose Rosa, a former Olympian in Montreal 1976, in what comprises a team that has a combined amount of years of experience in boxing that could easily rival any boxing team in the world. “Some of them give me some great pad work, some others are focusing on correcting mistakes, others are great at hand-wrapping. Each one gives me something different.”
The loss to Abregu, as devastating as it may have been, did leave a few lessons on Dulorme, and learning not to underestimate his opponents appears to be one of them. His new team provide him with just enough combined knowledge to keep him ahead of his challenge, and opens a new chance for him to fulfill his once-limitless promise of becoming the next great Puerto Rican boxing hero.
No stranger to traveling through uncharted territory to get to the promised land, Dulorme believes his chance to finally shine on the big stage is near.
“I think I am closer now,” said Dulorme, when asked about his dream of becoming the new face of the illustrious Puerto Rican boxing tradition. “I think that if I win on Saturday I will be on track to be a great champion and get the big fights. I only have to win on Saturday and remain focused looking ahead, and continue winning.”
That path, however, is not uncharted territory for Dulorme. As an accomplished amateur fighter who started boxing when he was little more than a toddler, Dulorme has won the Puerto Rico Golden Gloves, Saint Martin Golden Gloves and Dominican Republic Golden Gloves, winning 142 amateur fights and losing only 2 of them in the process.
Continuing his winning streak in this stage of his career will require him to summon all of that mojo and then some. And he has managed to find that inspiration in a particularly unnerving situation.
“He did say a few disrespectful comments about us Latinos and I got a bit angry about that,” said Dulorme about his public dispute with Crawford’s trainer, Brian “BoMac” McIntire, who made a few seemingly inappropriate comments about Latinos. “It is nothing personal. But I still support and defend my people.”
One can only assume that Crawford has his own personal brand of pride to defend as well. But Dulorme believes this will only add pressure to his opponent, not to him.
“I think he is fighting before his own crowd, and they may be thinking that he has to look good, or be thinking on how to give a good impression. I am not thinking about that. I am thinking about making weight, staying focused and winning the fight,” said Dulorme about the task at hand, without forgetting that the attention of the boxing world will be divided between his bout and the Matthysse-Provodnikov bout that will follow from a different location.
“We are four great fighters in two terrific fights this Saturday, and they are both on HBO. I believe every boxing fan should be watching those great fights.”
Every so often, a fight comes along whose mesh of styles virtually guarantee robust, unforgettable action. Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano was one. Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward was another. Now we have Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov. Gatti-Ward didn't need title belts to be great and neither does Matthysse-Provodnikov because any fight that pits "The Machine" vs. "The Siberian Rocky" has to be good.
Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:
Breaking An Old Habit?: Along with Mikey Garcia, John Molina and Adrien Broner, Matthysse had long been one of boxing's slowest starters. The average junior welterweight throws 59.9 punches per round but in four of the last five fights before meeting Molina last year the Argentine averaged just 38.3 punches per round in round one. But in his last two fights against Molina and Mexican Roberto Ortiz, Matthysse managed to rev up his engine more quickly. In round one against Molina, Matthysse threw 47 punches (landing nine) while against Ortiz he fired 57 punches (landing 12). Of course, those figures don't compare to what he is capable of doing in later rounds, but it's a much more encouraging trend.
Matthysse put Ortiz away in round two but against Molina he suffered his ups and downs -- literally. Matthysse was dropped in rounds two and five and suffered a cut in round three but rebounded with knockdowns in rounds eight and 10 before registering the knockout in the 11th. This fight of the year candidate saw Matthysse prevail 275-104 overall, 71-18 jabs and 204-86 power and land 48% overall, 30% jabs and a sky-high 60% of his power shots against the sieve-like Molina. After going 9 of 47 in round one, Matthysse's averages from rounds 3-10 were a mind-boggling 31.8 of 59.9 and in rounds 8-10 he averaged 74 punches and 43.3 connects per round. When "The Machine" gets loosened up, he is unstoppable.
Give and Take: Provodnikov is a tough guy's tough guy who is willing to absorb more than his fair share of punishment for the chance to deliver his own. His last high-profile fight -- a 12-round split decision loss to the unheralded Chris Algieri nearly one year ago -- was a prime example of this phenomenon. Provodnikov scored two thunderous knockdowns in round one, the first of which also produced a massive swelling around Algieri's eye that eventually slammed shut. But Algieri's steady yet high-volume attack (82.8 punches per round) as well as his stinging counterpunching enabled him to build decisive statistical leads of 288-205 overall, 111-41 jabs and 177-164 power and percentage leads of 29%-26% overall, 20%-12% jabs and 41%-38% power. Provodnikov's defeat wasn't due to a lack of effort -- his 64.7 punches per round was above the divisional average -- but it was more a result of Algieri's ring generalship and off-the-chart guts.
Although Matthysse is a rock-fisted puncher, it may be better for him to include his boxing skills because each of Provodnikov's three losses came to boxers who had good technique but who also were talented enough to incorporate the right mixture of slugging. Timothy Bradley won 2013's Fight of the Year by unleashing 83.3 punches per round to Provodnikov's 56.3 and out-landing him 347-218 overall, 129-32 jabs and 218-186 power. Bradley jabbed plenty (40.8 thrown/10.8 connects per round) while limiting Provodnikov's jab (13.5 thrown/2.7 connects per round) and was the more accurate puncher in all phases (35%-32% overall, 26%-20% jabs, 43%-36% power).
Provodnikov's first defeat came to Mauricio Herrera, who paved the way for what Bradley did -- 76 punches per round to 58.3 for Provodnikov, connect leads of 302-240 overall, 121-74 jabs and 181-166 power and effective jabbing (36.3 thrown/10.1 connects per round to Provodnikov's 21.2/6.2). Provodnikov was slightly more accurate overall (34%-33%) and in jabs (29%-28%) but Herrera, who, like Algieri, suffered a horribly swollen face, led 38%-37% in power accuracy.
Thus, Matthysse would be well advised to showcase the other dimensions of his game, which he has shown are available to him.
Prediction: And Matthysse will do just that -- provided he gets by the Russian's opening wave. Expect fireworks: Matthysse's last 4 opponents (Ortiz, Molina, Garcia & Peterson) landed 40% of their power shots, while Provodnikov's last 3 opponents (Algieri, Alvarado, Bradley) landed 43% of their power shots- Wgt. class avg.: 36%. Matthysse's chin has been somewhat unreliable of late -- in his last three fights he was dropped twice by Molina and once by Danny Garcia -- but that shouldn't be much of an issue because Provodnikov, at least against better fighters, is a clubbing puncher who wins by attrition. Once "The Machine" works out the early kinks he will run over his rugged but less skilled opponent. That said, it will be fun to watch for as long as it lasts, and the guess here is that it will go all the way. Matthysse by thrilling decision.
Terence Crawford's rise from obscurity has been nothing short of startling and illuminating. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford toiled in virtual anonymity until March 2013, when he was summoned as a late sub for then-140-pound titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev to fight Breidis Prescott. After decisively out-pointing Prescott, Crawford rolled off five more wins that included a WBO lightweight title and a 2014 campaign that many thought was worthy of Fighter of the Year status.
Now, the "Hunter" is seeking new prey in a new weight class. The one-time sub for a junior welterweight titlist is fighting for a vacant belt at 140 against once-beaten and one-time super prospect Thomas Dulorme. Will this story come full circle? We'll see.
Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:
Crawford's Many Sides: During his run Crawford has proved himself to be, arguably, the most versatile fighter in the sport. Not only can he switch-hit with fluidity and equal effectiveness, each fight appears to reveal a new wrinkle. Against Sidney Siqueira Crawford was a volume puncher (81 per round) that featured an excellent body attack (40 body connects among 101 landed power shots). In beating Prescott he threw far less (43.2 punches per round) and he boxed more than he slugged (286 jabs, 146 power shots) but he was very efficient, especially in his power punching as he boasted a 44%-19% bulge). As in the Presoctt fight, Crawford proved he could out-box a taller man in Ricky Burns. There, he upped his punch rate to 67.6 per round, used a balanced attack (422 jabs, 389 power shots) and produced lopsided numbers (213-76 overall, 52-27 jabs, 161-49 power). Against Alejandro Sanabria Crawford featured an almost perfectly balanced offense (112 jabs, 121 power shots) but was extremely accurate (36% overall, 50% power) and defensively responsible (23% overall, 27% power) and showed off one-punch explosiveness as a hook dropped Sanabria in the opening moments of the sixth.
Against Yuriorkis Gamboa, Crawford proved he can come back from a slow start and show off a previous untapped wild side in producing the knockout. From round five onward he out-landed Gamboa 116-41 overall and 80-38 power and was extremely efficient in his power percentages (78%, 53%, 71%, 73% and 67%).
During his most recent victory over Raymundo Beltran, Crawford showcased his extraordinary jab, which was also effective against Andrey Klimov (36.5 thrown/8.8 connects per round). The Beltran numbers were eye-popping: His 12.5 connects per round more than doubled the 5.1 lightweight average and he reached double-digit connects in eight of the 12 rounds, including a stretch of 20, 18 and 18 in rounds four through six and finished the fight with four more in rounds 9-12. That table-setter allowed Crawford to post massive connect gaps (243-96 overall, 150-23 jabs, 93-73 power) and impressive accuracy across all phases (38% overall, 34% jabs, 46% power). The only cause for pause -- Beltran landed 36% of his power shots, a higher figure than in other bouts. Crawford's put up good numbers in his last 4 fights. He landed 46% of his power punches (wgt. class avg.: 36%). He also landed 8 jabs per round (wgt. class avg.: 5)
The Comeback Trail: Dulorme has won six straight since his disastrous seventh round TKO loss to Luis Abregu in October 2012, a fight that saw the prospect dropped twice and hammered consistently (121-54 overall, 103-29 power while tasting 46% of Abregu's power shots). While Dulorme has won, he hasn't shown the same explosiveness that marked his rise to prominence. He has scored two KOs in those six fights as compared to the 12 KOs he scored in 16 fights before facing the Argentine.
In six pre-Abregu fights Dulorme averaged 60.5 punches per round, averaged 27.2 thrown jabs and 5.7 jab connects per round and landed 46% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while his opponents averaged 35.8 punches per round, landed 1.6 of their 11.9 jabs per round and connected on 23% overall, 13% jabs and 28% power. Conversely, in three CompuBox-tracked post-Abregu fights the numbers have dropped precipitously. Dulorme's work rate plunged to 39.5 per round to his opponents' 34.8. He has landed 3.9 jabs and thrown 18.8 jabs per round to his foes' 2.4 and 13.8 and the accuracy gaps in Dulorme's favor have shrunk to 30%-25% overall, 21%-18% jabs and 38%-30% power.
Not only has he become a more reluctant fighter offensively, he has shown signs of fatigue late in bouts. Against Francisco Figueroa Dulorme started well as he averaged 51.8 punches per round in rounds 2-5 and out-landed Figueroa 48-21 overall and 48-20 power in that stretch. But in rounds six and seven Dulorme's output dipped to 47 and 34 respectively (40.5 per round) and out-landed Figueroa 16-9 overall and 13-8 power before scoring the TKO in the eighth.
Karim Mayfield's ugly style induced a mauling, slow-paced fight (30.8 per round for Dulorme, 28.4 for Mayfield) that included underwhelming accuracy (27%-21% Dulorme overall, 22%-20% Mayfield jabs, 36%-21% Dulorme power). Dulorme established a lead in the first six rounds by prevailing 47-28 overall and 31-20 power. But in round seven Mayfield led 11-8 in total connects while Dulorme's work rate dropped from 35 punches to 26. In fact, in three of the final four rounds Dulorme's output was below 30 (26 in the seventh, 27 in the ninth and 24 in the 10th) while Mayfield's rose from 31 in the sixth to 33, 35, 39 and 29 in the final four rounds. Dulorme hung on to lead 83-61 overall, 34-25 jabs and 49-36 power, but he failed to put the hammer down when he could have.
Dulorme's most recent fight with Hank Lundy was a tale of two halves. Dulorme kicked off the fight with a first-round knockdown and a first half that saw him build bulges of 74-66 overall and averaging 48.6 punches per round to Lundy's 42.2. But the fight turned in the sixth round and from that point forward his output dropped to 40.8 per round while Lundy's surged to 48 and saw Lundy prevail 85-80 in total connects, thanks largely to a 10th round in which Lundy out-threw Dulorme 62-37 in thrown punches and out-land him 25-17 overall. In the end, Dulorme clung to a slim 152-151 lead in total connects, which accurately projected the split decision that would follow.
Needless to say, this habit of fading late in fights could be disastrous against a multi-faceted yet consistently excellent fighter in Crawford.
Prediction: Crawford is a man on the rise while Dulorme, while still winning, is not the same fighter who caused so much excitement early in his career. Yes, Dulorme is the naturally bigger guy (he's had seven fights where he's weighed 145 or more while Crawford's career high was 142 against Andre Gorges in April 2012) but the Nebraskan's talent level has proven to be elite while Dulorme has yet to reach that plateau. Crawford by late-round TKO.
By Kieran Mulvaney
Two days of open workouts taught us approximately as much about the respective strategies of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as we might reasonably have expected: essentially, nothing. And who really can blame either man for not wanting to display any hint of the training underway or the tactics being developed for their May 2 clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? There is simply too much at stake to risk giving away anything that could dull any possible edge or dilute any putative surprise.
So Mayweather, who performed on Tuesday for approximately 300 credentialed onlookers at his eponymous boxing club in a Vegas strip mall populated primarily by Chinese restaurants, did enough to work up a sweat – hitting a heavy bag, transferring to a speed bag, going through the motions of some pad work with his uncle Roger, and counting out some ab crunches – and not much more. Pacquiao, who the following day welcomed a similar crowd into the confines of Hollywood’s Wild Card gym, did even less: some slow motion pad work with trainer Freddie Roach, some bouncing around the ring, and shadowboxing. Then, suddenly, there was a declaration that the show was over, before he descended the stairs to the parking lot outside and was gone.
So be it. The principal purpose of both events was for the two fighters to talk with the assembled media, and in that respect they each discharged their responsibilities to maximum effect. Thirty years after Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns developed such antipathy during a 23-city media tour that promoter Bob Arum at one stage had to physically intervene to prevent the fight from taking place in a St. Louis restaurant rather than a Caesars Palace ring, Mayweather and Pacquiao are undergoing a PR blitz of a more modern nature, one that takes advantage of the reach of satellite networks and social media. So instead of 23 assignments, each man has so far had just two: their joint appearance at the kick-off press conference in downtown Los Angeles, and their respective hosting duties this week.
And not only did the two principals speak to the media, their camps, supporters, and friends did too. Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, predicted confidently that his man would knock Pacquiao out; Roach similarly anticipated a decisive victory for his charge. Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz reflected with deep hurt on the emotions stirred by seeing his friend knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez; less expectedly, Lil’ Kim was on hand to support her friend Floyd and share her excitement at the fact she will be in the crowd on May 2.
But if both sides were reluctant to reveal too much, there was much that could be inferred – and two seemingly contradictory things in particular.
One was the genuine confidence that each camp feels, a confidence that is almost jarring given the quality of opposition but is likely a result of the fact that each man has been studying the other in depth now for over five years and as a consequence feels he knows the other inside-out.
The other is that, for all that assurance, all involved are genuinely aware of the difficulty of the task ahead. Mayweather and Pacquiao have fought and defeated – in many cases annihilated – a string of opponents, including existing or certain future Hall-of-Famers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya – but this is the fight by which each man will be defined. And for all their achievements and the quality of their opposition, neither man has ever before experienced an event of quite this magnitude, or faced a foe of quite this nature.
That is why the real work began long before the cameras were turned on, and resumed only once they were turned off. The results of that work will become apparent in 16 days.
By Diego Morilla
The all-lower-case, heavily misspelled Facebook post stands out in Lucas Matthysse’s profile as rare isolated text among dozens of selfies with his family, his friends, his team, his beloved daughter and his dogs, most of them with barely an explanatory footnote. It stands as a testimony of a rare and urgent moment of inspiration, an unstoppable feeling that needed to be put into words and relayed to the world immediately.
“I love you man, you don’t know how proud I am and our family as well. This thing you’re doing, very few would do it, leaving your family and everything for what you love, which is boxing. I am very proud of you, know it. You will reach the top, you’ll see. I left my home when I was 14 to be where I am and every sacrifice will bear fruits and you will never regret the decision you made. I love you, keep representing your country and your family name.”
The open message from Lucas Matthysse to his 17-year old nephew Ezequiel – who has recently moved to the United States to pursue a professional career as a boxer – evokes much more than the loving encouragement of a relative to a young man in pursuit of his dream. It bears traces of Lucas’s own journey from teenage runaway to boxing champion, but it also carries in it the flame of a craft and a passion that has defined the Matthysse family across generations, and in both genders.
Ezequiel’s father, Walter, was himself a promising KO artist on his way to the top before he ran into Paul Williams back in 2009 in a career-wrecking loss. Walter and Lucas’s father Mario was a fringe contender in the talent-rich Argentine scene of the 1970s, and their sister Soledad (married to a fighter, a brother of former two-division champion Omar Narvaez) is a female world champion in her own right. And even their mom Doris climbed into the ring for one fight many years ago to finally get a taste of the rush, the passion, and the pain that her offspring, her husband, and her brother Miguel Angel Steimbach had experienced in the squared circle, retiring as an amateur provincial champion with a grand record of 1-0.
Clearly it'd be an understatement to say that boxing runs in the Matthysse family. And yet, Lucas takes it to another level, carrying the torch and bearing the pride of his family and his country on his fists and his very skin, which he has transformed into an illustrated testimony of his trials and his commitment to the family trade.
It all started with his own journey of self-discovery back in adolescence.
Leaving the parental home is not an easy decision for a teenager, but Matthysse’s desire to grow into a world-class fighter was too strong to be contained by the walls of his childhood home, and in that interest he left his mother’s home in Esperanza to live in the neighboring town of Vera in the northern portion of the Santa Fe province in Argentina, an area populated long ago by the Dutch and German immigrants from whom Matthysse draws his name and his nomadic spirit.
As in many other childhood adventures, Lucas took comfort in the presence of a sidekick willing to take turns playing Tom and Huck in the Argentine lowlands.
The kids at the gym knew him as Chino. You may know him as former junior welterweight champion Marcos Maidana.
“We shared the same room. We trained together, we went to the fights together, and sometimes we fought each other. We would get up in the ring, beat the crap out of each other, and then leave on the same bus,” said Lucas about his relationship with Maidana, with whom he is still friends.
Maidana, born and raised in neighboring Margarita, had found his way to Vera and met Juan Keller, Matthysse’s trainer and temporary father figure, at the local sports club. Soon enough they were two more kids in the Keller family eating, drinking, and breathing boxing; working in Juan’s grocery store; and going around the countryside in the old family truck to pick up fruit boxes and look for fights.
“He had a truck and we would go sell groceries from town to town,” said Lucas, “and we’d carry our punching bags in the truck to hang them from trees by the road, or we would go to wherever there was a fight card to try to get a fight.”
Shortly after, Matthysse began adding permanent lines and colors to the scars and marks left on his body by his boxing activity. And he hasn’t stopped ever since.
“I started with a little heart here in my hand, and when [my parents] found out, they gave me a lot of shit,” said Lucas about the many tattoos that populate his skin, most of which are self-inflicted. “Then I wrote some initials here [on my biceps] and they didn’t care. So I went on,” he laughed.
Soon, he became an ardent advocate of putting his feelings into ink, and just like an inspired Tom Sawyer recruiting his reluctant buddies to paint the picket fence for him, he began selling his modest talents to his fellow fighters for a quick buck – as well as the pleasure of becoming a more permanent part of their professional and emotional investment in boxing.
“When I was in the national team I tattooed everyone, like (current junior flyweight titlist Juan Carlos) Reveco, Maidana, all of them. I put together an improvised little machine and started learning, first on myself and then with others,” said Matthysse, who has since then added a few patriotic-themed tattoos like the large Argentine map emblazoned with the sun on his back, and a line that runs in a collar-like shape between his clavicles on his chest, which reads “Juremos con Gloria Morir” (“Let us swear to die with glory”).
That sentence—which is the last phrase of the Argentine national anthem—and the map were only a few of the latest additions to a long list of inspirational tattoos that have grown in size and emotional meaning as Matthysse’s career has progressed from traveling teenage brawler to world-class boxer. And all along, that vast Argentine country he carries on his back, from the bleak landscape of his Northern childhood stomping grounds to the even bleaker, windy environs of his current home in the Patagonian town of Trelew, have provided the perfect background for Matthysse to build his fighting spirit, just as they did with his next foe.
Because one stark similarity shared by Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov and Matthysse, is the fact that they both come from a land where there is no place to hide for miles on end. And that’s what people expect to see in their fight, Saturday night on Boxing After Dark: a toe-to-toe action bout between two fighters bred in similarly bleak and desolate environments who have embraced the call of their surrounding wilderness and transformed it into their biggest asset in the ring.
Like Provodnikov, Lucas will be riding on his hunger, his flag, his soul and his family pride for a fight that will be disputed on a stage distant enough from both of their homelands to avoid large contingents of fans from either fighter giving them the “local advantage” with their support – a fact that many other fighters would perceive as a hindrance.
But these two loners born and bred in two of the most barren patches of land on Earth have learned the hard way to use that hardship to help them summon their strengths. And their personal records indicate that's exactly what they will be doing in the ring to produce the explosive performance that everyone is expecting from them.
For Matthysse, as always, his national pride and his family’s mission will scream just as loud from the ink on his skin as it does in the howling winds of his native land to remind him that he has more than a map and the lyrics to a song tattooed on him. Something that is buried deeper within his body, and which has remained there since he left his home as little more than a kid with a dream and a mission.
“His hunger, for sure,” said Juan Keller, when asked about the reasons why he sees Lucas dominating his division and becoming an Argentine all-time great in the near future. “But he also loves boxing. He left lots of things behind because of boxing. His flag, his soul and his spirit is boxing."
On April 18th, Matthysse promises to strengthen the ties that bind him to his country, as well as inspiring the next generation of Matthysses to do the same, in a fight in which he is the favorite to put his name once again at the top of a talent-rich division, and in which his love for the sport that has defined his family will be in full display.
Whether he can dominate Provodnikov and thus plot a roadmap to victory to his nephew and the next generation of Matthysses remains to be seen. But win or lose, he will surely continue leaving his mark on Argentine boxing history, where he holds the rare distinction of being a fighter who almost never fails to send his opponents to the canvas at least once (Danny Garcia is the lone exception).
And if the occasion presents itself, Matthysse doesn’t rule out the possibility of a more permanent impression on his foes.
“I believe that everyone who faced me is going to remember me, regardless of whether I tattoo them or not,” said Lucas, “but I hope I can tattoo one of my opponents one day.”
The distant memories of Lucas hitting the heavy bag under the trees, with Marcos Maidana waiting for his turn by the old produce truck near the cattle fields, both of them dreaming of hauling first-class opponents into the slaughterhouse, are long gone. But his desire to tattoo his name in boxing’s collective memory is still there, and he doesn’t just carry his family and his country’s support within him.
He keeps his promise to defend both of them or die with glory in the process near his heart.
The hardest hitters in the junior welterweight division look ahead to their upcoming showdown. Matthysse vs Provodnikov happens along with Crawford vs Dulorme this Saturday night live on HBO.