Danny Garcia was able to avoid Lucas Matthysse's heavy blows in his successful title defense. (Robert Beck/SI)
In a bout that was far more anticipated than your usual after-thought semi-final matchup, Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse lived up to the hype, fighting a bruising, action-packed 12 rounds. In the end, the underdog Garcia preserved his undefeated record with a close but unanimous — and well-deserved — victory. Here are three things to take away (in addition to the image of Matthysse’s battered left eye) from the memorable bout.
Lucas Matthysse is a big-league offensive force: Matthysse's nickname is 'The Machine,' a nod to his seemingly implacable destructive power (he came into the fight with 32 knockouts in his 34 wins against two losses), and he made that name stand up Saturday night. He threw power shots from the opening bell, and even late in the fight, long after his right eye had swollen nearly shut (possibly from an inadvertent head butt), he was still coming forward and throwing with a conviction that, if he landed a punch, he could turn the tide with one shot. But sometimes machines are limited in their function, and Saturday night, Matthysse looked locked into that single mode. Who knows? If the eye hadn't been shut, maybe Matthysse would have taken fewer punches (thus losing fewer points) and might have zeroed in with his own blows better. But it's clear that he needs to develop a more patient and multi-faceted attack and rely less on the, well, mechanical approach. He remains an exciting fighter, though, and, whether in a rematch with Garcia or against anyone else at 140, he will be a major draw.
Danny Garcia has some real guts and a serious chin: He also has the skill and speed to remain undefeated (well, unless he gets the shot at Mayweather that was being suggested in the aftermath of Saturday night's card). The expectation was that Garcia would be tempted or forced into eventually trading punches with Matthysse, and would come out on the losing – as in, counted out – end of that deal. But from the opening round, Garcia fought with precision and control, mixing it up when he had to but using a range of punches and superior speed not only to avoid Matthysse's threshing shots, but also breaking the Machine down along the way. Asked afterward about avoiding Matthysse’s power, Garcia made it clear that he had come not just to run, but also to assert himself along the way, saying, "I'm a champion. I come from Philadelphia," an allusion to the City of Brotherly Love's notoriously loveless gym wars. "If you can make it out of Philadelphia, you can make it anywhere," he added. Look for Garcia to prove that after his showing in Las Vegas.
Boxing needs to bank its future on more than just a single superstar: Tonight's card was that dynamic in a microcosm. By putting a matchup as important and attractive as Garcia-Matthysse on the undercard of Mayweather-Alvarez, the promoters and Showtime made a statement to the boxing public: They're not there to extract as much money as possible for as little product as possible. Garcia-Matthysse was about the future and about giving fans a reason to invest their time in the sport. As Chris Mannix observed in a trenchant tweet this evening, other sports, like the NFL, have a regular season, not just a Super Bowl. Fights like the Garcia-Matthysse war serve the same purpose, keeping fans interested beyond just the main—and mainstream-hyped—Super Bouts.
-- Rich O'Brien