It's a title that has changed hands frequently over the last few years: The most feared fighter in boxing.
For a while it was Antonio Margarito, the big, burly welterweight whose size and power had many potential opponents coming up with excuses.
Then it was Paul Williams, whose freakish size (6-foot-1) for a 147-pounder made it nearly impossible to secure a big-money fight.
Today, that distinction, many would argue, belongs to Lucas Matthysse, the hard-hitting, hard-charging junior welterweight whose thudding power and relentless pressure make him an appealing opponent to, well, no one. His two career losses -- to Zab Judah in 2010 and Devon Alexander in 2011 -- were both controversial, both on his opponent's home turf and didn't have either rushing to give him a rematch.
On Saturday night, Matthysse (32-2) will defend his interim 140-pounds title against former prospect Mike Dallas Jr. at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (Showtime, 10 pm). It's not the fight Matthysse preferred, but for now it's the only one he could get.
"I am a man of few words," Matthysse said. "I am in great shape and I am ready to fight. What else can I say? Bring it on. This is a very important fight for me not only to win but to look good."
Indeed, Matthysse needs to do more than win. Like Margarito and Williams before him, the only way Matthysse can draw opponents into the ring is through the lure of network dollars. Showtime loves him, and would be willing to invest even more money in him if he continues to impress. That means a big performance against Dallas (19-2), a light hitting former welterweight who was knocked out by Josesito Lopez in his biggest fight to date.
"I don't know very much about Dallas," Matthysse said in a radio interview. "I saw a video of him but that is about it, so I will go in the ring and adjust to what he does in the ring and take it from there. From what I have seen he is a good boxer. I won't underestimate him. Hopefully he comes to fight and not just stay away from me. Hopefully he tries to take the title from me so the fans get a great fight to watch."
Hopkins wants more
For more than 25 years, Bernard Hopkins has treated his body like a temple. He has eschewed alcohol, cigarettes and junk food of any kind. It has helped Hopkins, 48, achieve astonishing longevity in an unforgiving sport, longevity that was rewarded in 2011, when Hopkins beat Jean Pascal to become the oldest man to win a major title.
Can he do it again? Many expected -- hoped, maybe -- that Hopkins would retire after two disastrous outings against Chad Dawson. The first, in 2011, ended when Hopkins separated his shoulder in the second round, forcing a no-contest. The second meeting was worse, with Dawson putting on a boxing clinic in a lopsided unanimous decision win.
Still, Hopkins will fight on. On March 9th, he will challenge Tavoris Cloud for the IBF light heavyweight championship at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"People can say what they want," Hopkins said. "I have broken records, quieted doubters and solidified my legacy. Now, I am going to do all of that again, but this time at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn in front of a large crowd of people that understand and appreciate the sport."
You can't blame Hopkins for choosing to continue his career. He's healthy, a byproduct of a healthy lifestyle and a slick, defensive style that has prevented him from absorbing many heavy punches in his career. And Cloud is a brawler in the mold of Pascal, the type of opponent that Hopkins, even at this age, has been able to handle. But Cloud (24-0) also has big-time knockout power, having ended 19 of his fights early. If Hopkins has lost any of his elusiveness, Cloud could force him into an ugly retirement.
Five Questions...with heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings.
SI.com: Word is you are a candidate to face Wladimir Klitschko?
Jennings: It was a realistic possibility. [Promoter] Russell Peltz told me they don't want to fight -- I don't know how hard he fought for it though. I don't know. It was real. He [Peltz] feared putting me in with him. I told him I wanted it. Everyone knows how bad I want that fight. I don't want to wait for my career. I don't have ten more years. I have a pace that I created and I'm just trying to keep up with that pace. I don't have time to be slowed down. I came here fast and I'll leave fast
SI.com: What makes you think you were ready for that type of test?
BJ:I feel I can't do any worse than any of the other guys they have faced. I see things they don't have in their arsenal, things that I could apply. It's not that [Klitschko] has weaknesses, it's that I see things in him that I may be able to break through on. Wladimir has a problem being challenged. He is very seldom challenged. I know that if he gets it on the chin, he is going down. I have confidence in my ability. I know I will try harder than those other guys that he has fought. One of his weaknesses is that I think he would underestimate me, just like the rest of the guys that I fought. I'm a light guy and he would think he can just push me around.
SI.com: For a while you were gung ho about fighting Deontay Wilder. Now, not so much. What gives?
BJ: I felt I passed him. His record should speak for itself, but evidently it don't. He needs people like me to boost himself. He needs real opponents, real fights and he is not doing that. I don't need him. He threw shots at me first, we offered him a fight and Golden Boy did not take the offer. I don't like that attitude. I'm past him. He is nothing to me. I have no interest in him. I have no interest in his career. I'm more into Seth Mitchell or Johnathon Banks. Fighters, we look up to other boxers. We're fans. Wilder is not someone that, if I was just a fan, I would look up to. I wouldn't like him.
SI.com: I hear you are looking at new management.
BJ: I created a friendship with a possible person [James Prince]. He is just my friend for now. Of course he is a boxing manager and I know my manager position needs to be filled. I'm on the next level of business in the boxing world and my manager [trainer Fred Jenkins] doesn't have the capacity to handle that. I love Fred as my trainer and I never see myself being trained by anyone else. But in business, things need to be treated more carefully. I need someone looking out for the best interest of the fighter. That isn't the case, stemming from the first decision [to fight on NBC Sports Network on March 9th] for Bryant Jennings in 2013. Nothing was presented to me that sounded good. It was the same money I made last January. All the things I've done over the last year, those need to be taken into consideration. I need to be in position to make some demands, to exercise my muscle and put that to work. I have to let people know I'm not just anyone. You can't run over me."
SI.com: Are you still fighting in March?
BJ: That date has been cancelled. It was about the money. How long do you think you are going to keep paying me pennies when you are making much more off the venue than you were last year? I've outgrown NBC in the last year. The amount of fighters, the caliber of fighters on HBO, Bryant Jennings is arguably better than these individuals. HBO brings more money, recognition and it feeds the Bryant Jennings brand. Why am I not on that? I have no other way of reaching my financial dreams. I'm still working a full-time job, and you can't do that for two years straight. We have to change the story. Promoters, managers, you guys have to do something about that. This guy here is the meal ticket, and you can't have me jeopardizing my limbs on the job working heavy machinery every day. You have mediocre fighters that are being paid just to train. I have yet to go to a real training camp. It needs to be taken care of. [My career] needs to be nurtured because of the type of fighter that I am.
I expect to at least have a title shot this year. The heavyweight division has been wide open for a while now. I came and I walked through it. Now when I get here, people want to slow me down. Don't try to slow me down. Let's keep me moving. I just want to succeed and be the best in the world. America's heavyweight division is shallow. I'm trying to be the best in the world. Tyson Fury, David Price, Robert Helenius, Alexander Povetkin, those guys rep the world. I am just trying to be on that list.
From the Mailbag
What is your obsession with Gabriel Rosado? He's tough as nails and has a solid club-fighter resume and deserves praise for what he has made out of his career. And now even after Gennady Golovkin dominated him over seven difficult rounds to watch, you are mentioning him in the same sentence as Saul Alvarez? A rematch with Angulo? Why? -- Chris, Unknown
Look at what Rosado did in 2012, Chris. He beat Jesus Soto-Karass, which at the time was considered a solid win. He knocked out Sechew Powell, a durable former world title challenger. Then he stopped Charles Whittaker, who is a lot better than most people think, to earn the IBF's No. 1 ranking at 154-pounds. I'm not saying Rosado is elite, but I do think he deserves a big fight at junior middleweight. And what has Angulo done to make you think he is bigger than Rosado? He has won a couple of low-level fights since being stopped by James Kirkland. Styles make fights and no one would disagree that Rosado-Angulo II would be a war in the ring.
What is Floyd Mayweather's deal? When is he going to announce his next fight?-- Mike, Los Angeles
You got me, Mike. All the indications I'm getting is that Mayweather will face Robert Guerrero on May 4th, possibly with Canelo Alvarez on the undercard, which would set up a showdown between Mayweather and Alvarez sometime in the fall. It's what Golden Boy Promotions wants, because it gets Guerrero a big payday and guarantees Alvarez two big paydays in 2013. But there is still a chance that Mayweather goes straight to Alvarez in May. That's clearly a much bigger fight, though Mayweather would have to pay Alvarez a premium, because if there is one thing we know about Canelo, it's that he is not going to get in the ring for short money.
Why are Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch talking trash at Andre Ward? They had their chances against Ward and got destroyed. What's the point of a rematch?-- Tony, Minneapolis
There is no point, Tony. Kessler and Froch see the HBO dollars that Ward is poised to rake in and want a piece of it. To me, it's as simple as that. But I wouldn't want to see a rematch of either of those fights. I want to see Ward move up to 175-pounds. He has cleaned house at 168 and there are plenty of challenges waiting for him in the light heavyweight division.
Ten Things I Think, and yes, I'm ripping off Peter King
10. I think I'm thrilled that a proposed fight between Shane Mosley and Paulie Malignaggi appears to be falling apart, and Showtime should be too. Anyone that has watched Mosley over the last three years could see that he was done, and a matchup against the pillow-punching Malignaggi would have been unwatchable.
9. Speaking of Malignaggi, the self-described Twitter king announced that he would no longer interact with fans and use Twitter solely to update followers with information about his fights. His reason: Too many fans were giving him grief about choosing to fight Mosley.
8. I think I'm disappointed that K2 Promotions couldn't find an opponent for junior middleweight prospect Tony Harrison last weekend. Harrison, a protégé of the late Emanuel Steward, is a tall, rangy 154-pounder with crushing power. He's a guy that with a little more development has superstar potential.
7. I think either Main Events VP Jolene Mizzone or I will be very, very wrong on February 24th. I've expressed my concerns -- in this space and elsewhere -- that historically dull Malik Scott will stink up the joint on the February 23rd NBC Sports Network show headlined by the heavyweight matchup between Scott and prospect Czar Glazkov, while Mizzone is convinced that Glazkov's attacking style will make for a good show. Hope you're right, Jolene.
6. I think Friday night is Sergiy Dzinziruk's last chance to secure a big fight. Dzinziruk, 36, was a top contender when he came to the U.S. in 2011. But after getting flattened by Sergio Martinez and fighting an overweight Jonathan Gonzalez to an uninspired draw, Dzinziruk is teetering on journeyman status. He will get another chance, on ESPN, against Brian Vera on Friday, and he had better make the most of it.
5. I think I have no idea why Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin can't make a deal. There are no other obvious opponents for each other out there. Just make the fight already.
4. I think I'm glad to see Yuri Foreman back in the ring. Foreman, a former junior middleweight titleholder, has been idle for almost two years before returning on Wednesday with a six-round decision win over Brandon Baue in New York. It's been a tough go for Foreman, who has battled injuries in the ring and the devastating loss of his manager, Murray Wilson, out of it. His new promoter, Lou DiBella, promises to keep Foreman busy as he looks towards another big fight.
3. I think I'm looking forward to Chris Arreola-Bermane Stiverne, though I'm not happy about not seeing it live. Arreola-Stiverne will be featured on the televised undercard of Bernard Hopkins fight against Tavoris Cloud on March 9th. But while Hopkins-Cloud will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Arreola-Stiverne will be held in southern California. That's a pointless cash grab.
2. I think Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer's $3 million offer for the right to control a Nonito Donaire-Abner Mares fight is a savvy public move, but it won't get the fight done. Top Rank just isn't going to fork over control of Donaire, not after spending the last year building him up on HBO.
1. I think I like Lucas Matthysse by an early knockout on Saturday. And I think I'd love to see him in with Brandon Rios next.
GRAHAM: Gennady Golovkin is just what boxing needs