Postol Upsets Matthysse with 10th Round Knockout

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 was 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.”

Orozco Remains Undefeated with Surprisingly Wide Decision Victory

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

In the co-main event, Antonio Orozco remained undefeated with a controversially wide decision over veteran Humberto Soto. The judges’ scores of 98-91 and 97-92 (twice) did not reflect the general ringside view of a contest that, although undeniably hard to score because of numerous close rounds, had been competitive throughout. In fact, there was some concern before the scores were announced that maybe Orozco, who improves to 23-0 with 15 KOs, might have been denied victory by a ninth-round decision by referee Jerry Cantu. In that round, Orozco, who by that stage was coming on, appeared to drop Soto with a body shot; but instead of a stoppage win or, at least, a 10-8 round, the San Diego native was denied the knockdown and docked a point for what Cantu deemed a low blow. Replays showed that the punch was borderline at worst, and surely not deserving of a point deduction, although Cantu had warned the American for low blows earlier in the bout.

Otherwise, the fight was an entertaining contest between the strength of the younger Orozco, and the skill and guile of Soto (65-9-2, 35 KOs), who was in his 76th professional prizefight. Early on, the veteran’s straight punches and combinations appeared to befuddle the novice, and despite being seven years his opponent’s senior, the Mexican looked the fresher at the end of each round, making sure to close every frame with a series of eye-catching flurries.

Orozco began to impose himself from the fourth onward, digging ripping hooks to body and head, and switching from suffocating brawling to skillful boxing, but Soto continued to have his moments. Every time Orozco threatened to build momentum, Soto responded to seemingly take rounds down the stretch and leave the outcome in doubt at the final bell – except, apparently, in the eyes of the judges.



Watch: Matthysse and Postol Weigh In

Lucas Matthysse and Viktor Postol step on the scales ahead of Saturday's fight, live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:15 PM ET/PT.

Matthysse and Postol Let Their Punches Do Their Talking

Photos by Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

Neither Lucas Matthysse nor Viktor Postol is the kind of fighter to pound his chest or talk smack about his opponent. At Friday’s weigh-in beneath the blazing California sun, the combatants in Saturday’s main event didn’t even spend too long on the obligatory face-off. They’re not like Manny Pacquiao, who finds the concept of face-offs silly and is rarely able to make it through one without bursting into a fit of giggles. Nor are they so happy to be here that they spend their time smiling broadly and thanking their opponent for the opportunity. It’s just that neither Argentina’s Matthysse not Ukrainian Postol is an especially voluble talker, in any language.

They are engaging enough, perfectly happy to discharge their media responsibilities and answer the questions posed to them. Both have been more than available during fight week for journalist interviews and fan photographs alike. But they have been neither overtly friendly nor especially sullen. They are simply two men who punch people for a living, and who feel no need to either boast about or apologize for that fact. They are, to use a professional term, badasses.

Inside the ring, they express their badassery in contrasting ways. Matthysse, living up to his billing as “The Machine”, frequently walks through, breaks down and obliterates his foes like a Buenos Aires-based remake of ‘The Terminator.’ His devastating weaponry is set up by fine boxing ability, but it is his explosive power that has garnered him both a fearsome reputation and a dedicated fan following.

Conversely, the equally-well-monikered “Iceman” Postol uses his height and reach (despite tipping the scales at under 140 pounds on Friday, he stands at 5’11” and peered down at Matthysse during the aforementioned face-off) to sublime advantage, firing off combinations from a distance, and beating his foes up while keeping them at bay. Unlike Matthysse, his victories do not often end in knockout, although he scored an emphatic stoppage of Selcuk Aydin with a devastating uppercut on his HBO debut last year.

The intrigue in this matchup is that clash of styles: whether the lanky Postol can frustrate Matthysse from long-range, or whether the explosive Matthysse can walk through the incoming fire and deliver his patented crushing blows.

It is a fight that has somewhat slipped under the radar, but which has the potential, once it is underway, to attract viewers, as those watching text and tweet for others to get in on the high-quality action that they are missing. Matthysse and Postol may not talk much, but that doesn’t matter; their fists will speak volumes.

Weights from Carson, CA:

Lucas Matthysse 139.4 lbs

Viktor Postol 139.4 lbs

Humberto Soto 140 lbs

Antonio Orozoco 140.6 lbs

Matthysse's Dream Achievement Is Finally Within His Grasp

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Diego Morilla

After years of toiling under the bright lights of the arena and the dimness of a damp gym, the dream is finally within reach. A trip to California, a tough competitor, a trying effort, an emotional ride to the top, a hand raised, and the name Matthysse echoing through the walls and reaching the world, letting them know that a new champion has been crowned.

Many people are expecting that scene to take place on Saturday, Oct. 3 when Lucas Matthysse fights Viktor Postol for the chance to crown himself as a new junior welterweight champion at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif, on HBO Boxing After Dark, 10:15 PM ET/PT.

But the scene has already taken place in a very recent past, when Lucas’ 9-year old daughter Priscila Matthysse won a gold medal as an aerobic gymnast in San Diego, earning the first title ever achieved by a member of the Matthysse family outside of a boxing ring. And a similar scene also took place around that same time when Lucas’ sister Soledad unified her WBA female featherweight title with Jelena Mrdjenovich’s WBC belt to further legitimize her career, thus setting up the chance of her and Lucas becoming the first pair of male-female siblings to hold world titles at the same time.

Unbelievably enough, the man who took on the task of carrying the emotional and physical burden of putting the Matthysse name on the world stage will be the last one in the family to actually achieve that status at the world championship level should he win on Saturday, after opening a path that his family continues to follow.

“I am a bit nervous,” admits Soledad, already training for her next bout while she waits (and hopes) to get a call for a possible joint award ceremony by the WBC in which both siblings would receive their green belts on the same day. “To think that we’re going to make history is something awesome, and I hope it happens.”

But for that to happen, Lucas will have to do his part and lift the now vacant WBC belt in his fight against Postol

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

The magnitude of the challenge at hand remains as large as any of his most recent efforts, many of them considered some of the toughest bouts seen on television in the past few years.

“It is weird, because I fought (Ruslan) Provodnikov and not having a title at stake at that fight felt really strange,” said Lucas about his extraordinary effort against the Russian slugger back in April, in what has already become an early candidate for fight of the year, (it would give Matthysse his second such award in consecutive years after he received that distinction from the Boxing Writers Association of America for his winning effort against John Molina in April of 2014). “But Postol is the number one in the division and this is a possibility for me to finally win a title.”

Matthysse will have his hands full in his upcoming bout against the 31-year-old Postol (27-0, 11 KOs), who is both taller and younger, and coming off signature victories. The Argentinian hopes to make his Ukrainian adversary the victim of the silent rage that has been brewing under his skin since he took up boxing as a teenager after seeing his father, his uncle, his older brother and even his mother take up boxing in search of the glory he now has within reach.

“In the ring I am different,” said Lucas, trying to bridge the gap between his quiet demeanor as a civilian and his uber feisty persona within the squared circle. “I am not a different person up there, but I leave my feelings behind because I know what I am up against. I know that once I am up there I am fighting for my daughter, my family, my wife, and once the fight is over I am myself once again.”

It is that separation between the ruthless knockout artist that he is in the ring and the tearful, emotional human being he becomes once he steps out of it what has allowed him to quietly develop one of the most exciting careers in today’s elite welterweight-ish division, scoring one highlight-reel stoppage after the other and building up a career that has taken him to the cover of The Ring magazine even before he earned a proper title, as well as being considered one of the most fan-friendly fighters to watch.

The rest of the respect he deserves, he hopes, will come after his next bout.

“If I win the title I will definitely earn a different kind of respect and I will be able to get the best fights out there,” said Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO), who has been routinely mentioned as a possible opponent for every relevant fighter between 140 and 147 pounds. “I am already competing at a high level, but I never had the chance to fight against the top money fighters in my division, and now I hope I will have that chance.”

As fellow boxers, Soledad and Lucas have been sherpas in each other’s trip to their personal Everests, and they continuously encourage each other in the right emotional and athletic direction using social media and instant messaging.

“I always send him videos of my sparring sessions, and he’s always commenting on that,” said Soledad, reaffirming Lucas’ role as the family’s new “leader and pioneer”, the trailblazing role once occupied by their father Mario. “We know how he feels because we’ve all been through that,” said Soledad, tacitly including in the “we” the figure of his nephew Ezequiel as well, currently training under Robert Garcia in Oxnard, California, in his own personal search for glory and recognition.

Regardless of how deep Lucas can bury his personal feelings before the fight, in its aftermath he will surely find himself releasing the emotions that three generations behind him (and a few more ahead of him) have been holding back until this moment.

“I believe I can get into Lucas’s head and I can see that he is hungry for glory and is ready to make history,” said Soledad. “Recently, I sent him an inspirational phrase and asked him whether he felt he was about to become a world champion, and I got emotional when he wrote back saying “sister, I want to be a champion like you, and we’re going to make history together”. That’s how I know that he will put his life on the line for this one.”

History and emotions aside, the victory against Postol would also set a few other personal traditions in motion.

“I hope I can get a tattoo of the new belt in my elbow,” laughs Lucas, pointing at a seemingly intentionally blank space in his right arm, amidst the profusion of mostly self-inflicted crudely artsy tattoos that he loves to work on between each fight.  

If Lucas allows himself to heed the call of his pent-up emotions, his family’s crowning achievement will call for many more tattoos in the years to come. 

Watch: Matthysse-Postol Final Press Conference

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney reports from the Matthysse vs. Postol final press conference in California. See Matthysse vs. Postol live Saturday, Oct. 3 on HBO beginning at 10:15PM

One-on-One with Viktor Postol

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one on one with Viktor Postol. See Matthysse vs. Postol live Saturday, Oct. 3, only on HBO beginning at 10:15PM.