LAS VEGAS -- Lucas Matthysse is bored. Or tired. Or both. Sitting at a press conference at the MGM Grand on Thursday -- a press conference to promote Saturday's junior welterweight title fight against Danny Garcia -- Matthysse was a man who plainly wanted to be anywhere else. He yawned. He sunk his head to his chest. He fiddled with a phone. When Angel Garcia, Danny's bombastic father and trainer, barked in his direction, Matthysse barely acknowledged him.
"I woke up early," Matthysse explained afterward, through an interpreter, "and all this is not my thing."
So when Garcia mocked your opponents and insulted your home country of Argentina you felt....
"Nothing," Matthysse said. "I don't speak English. I didn't understand a word he was saying."
Outside the ring, Matthysse is, well, boring. Inside though, he is anything but. Matthysse (34-2) is one of the most thrill inducing fighters in boxing, a 140-pound wrecking ball with a knockout percentage of 89 percent. Since dropping a decision to Devon Alexander in 2011, Matthysse has been on a knockout spree, drilling his last six opponents. Last May, Matthysse went up against Lamont Peterson, a man who beat Amir Khan, who took every bomb Kendall Holt could throw at him. Peterson was flattened before the end of the third round.
"Lucas is pure excitement," said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer. "The way he wins fights, this is what makes a superstar."
Matthysse almost wasn't much of anything. In 2005, Golden Boy inked Matthysse's brother, Walter, to a promotional contract. Schaefer went to HBO and sold network execs on Walter, then a power punching welterweight. In 2006, Walter came to the U.S. to fight Paul Williams. Williams knocked him out in the tenth round. A year later, Walter came back to the U.S., this time for a fight with Kermit Cintron. Cintron dropped him in two rounds. Walter returned to Argentina, lost his next three fights, and retired.
The investment in Walter was, in a word, disastrous. So when Argentinean promoter, Mario Arano, tried to sell Golden Boy on Walter's younger brother, Schaefer was understandably skeptical.
"I remember saying something like 'Come on,'" Schaefer said. "If i am going to go to HBO and tell them I have Walter's brother, they are going to throw me out of the building."
Yet there was something about Lucas. There was the slashing power that recalled memories of a young Manny Pacquiao. There was his granite chin. There was the aggressive, television friendly style. So Schaefer signed Lucas and was able to convince HBO to put him on the air. In 2010, Matthysse went to New Jersey to face Zab Judah in his backyard. He lost a close decision. The next year he went to St. Louis, Devon Alexander country, to face Alexander. He lost another split decision.
Matthysse was frustrated. He thought he was the victim of home cooking, and wondered if he could ever get a fair shot in the U.S. But he put some of the blame for the losses on himself, too. Feeling more comfortable training at home, Matthysse moved his camp out of California and back to Argentina. He vowed to be more aggressive. Before the Judah fight, Schaefer and Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya warned Matthysse to be careful with Judah in the early rounds, rounds that ultimately cost Matthysse the fight.
"Basically," Schaefer said, "he stopped listening to us."
Fighting became his only focus. Matthysse was never interested in watching film of his opponents. In 2010, Matthysse immersed himself in tape of Vivian Harris, so much so that he started to wonder what he got himself into.
"Since then," Matthysse said. "I don't watch anything."
The changes have worked. While Matthysse hasn't faced the highest of quality opponents -- Peterson was easily the best -- he has been making short work of them. His power comes from his ability to connect from all angles, to sting his opponents with shots they don't see coming.
And in Garcia, Matthysse will have an opponent who won't be hard to find. Garcia has vowed to put pressure on Matthysse, to make him fight backing up. He says he will make 'The Machine' -- a nickname Matthysse isn't particularly fond of, by the way -- look ordinary. There's a lot on the line against Garcia, too. To the winner go a pair of titles and the frontrunner position to be Floyd Mayweather's next opponent.
"I feel [Garcia's] style suits me," Matthysse said. "He's not a very good boxer. He's a fighter that's aggressive and comes forward just like I do. I like that."
As he spoke, Matthysse let slip a smile. His disdain for press events is matched by his joy to box, to entertain, and against Garcia he senses an opportunity to put on a show. The warrior in him was ready to burst out.
"I love to be in the ring, I love to do what I do," Matthysse said. "A different person comes out. I know I have grown [since his last two losses]. I'm a much better fighter. I know those titles are going back to my country."