By Ivan G. Goldman
We’re already hearing that Lamont Peterson is as good as finished. Knocked out by Lucas Matthysse in round three, he is, some fans and analysts tell us, toast. Not so fast.
Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime
They said the same thing about heavyweight John Ruiz after his 1996 outing against Davie Tua. That’s when Tua walked up to him at the opening bell and knocked him out with one punch. Nothing could be more embarrassing to a fighter. The official time was 19 seconds.
But Ruiz went on to win the WBA title twice. Then there’s Zab Judah. Kostya Tszyu hurt him in the second round and Judah, utterly flummoxed, stepped back to the ropes with his gloves at his waist. That was the end of that, though fans saw a little more action when the kayoed Zab threw a chair into the stands and physically threatened referee Jay Nady.
Up until that point Zab was supposed to be the next Sugar Ray Robinson, according to very strong hints by Max Kellerman. I thought it would in fact end a career, but not Judah’s. I mean Kellerman’s. He used to point out Judah’s invincibility no matter what the conversation was about. Two guys could be talking about perfume, say, or who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby, and Kellerman would bring the discussion over to the incredible talents of Zab. But somehow Kellerman survived Zab’s terrible defeat and so did Zab. They found maturity.
Peterson’s only lost twice in 34 outings. He’s got grit. He’ll be back. Larry Merchant once pointed out to me that they used to look at a fighter’s losses the same way we now view a baseball pitcher’s losses. Some nights they just don’t have it. But no one talks about sending a guy down to the minors because of one loss. The next time he goes to the mound he might pitch a no-hitter. It’s happened.
Peterson’s mistake was in not fighting cute. Instead he just fought. He was outsmarted. You can’t wage a tank battle against Matthysse. You have to move around and attack his supply lines, weaken him with hit-and-run guerrilla attacks. Peterson’s a lot wiser now than he was 24 hours earlier, and he’s only 29.
Now about Matthysse. He’s got what the sport so desperately needs. One-punch kayo power. And as Paulie Malignaggi pointed out, the guy’s got a great chin to go with it. He could be the Next Big Thing. They’re already setting up a Matthysse challenge to Danny Garcia. (That is, if Floyd Mayweather doesn’t make Garcia a solid offer he can’t refuse) Why? Is it really the natural next step? Not necessarily.
The fight will be made because they’re both Showtime fighters promoted by Golden Boy. It’s not a bad match-up, But Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios might be even better opponents. We’d know for sure only if Matthysse fought all three of them. But unless there’s some massive turnaround in the way things work, he won’t. Because Alvarado and Rios are both HBO fighters promoted by Top Rank. Notice how the Showtime on-camera team now pretends Alvarado and Rios don’t exist. They make believe there’s no HBO either. At least they do on camera. Off-camera? That’s another story. We mustn’t be taken in by this crap.
What we’re seeing in the boxing world is the old world of the sixties when AFL and NFL teams never played each other. Until finally they merged and made professional football the most popular American spectator sport by far.
Right now Rios is moving up to welter to face Manny Pacquiao in China, even though he probably ought to stay at junior welter for awhile. It’s what happens when networks need fights but consider contractual considerations, not boxing considerations.
When you ask the fighters themselves, they don’t like to be cut off from obviously good matches because clowns in suits have created asinine business conditions. But there’s a way to settle this to everyone’s satisfaction.
First, set up a contest between Rios and Peterson. They both lost their last fights, but they have plenty left. Put Matthysse in against Alvarado on the same card. The main event? Tag-team mud wrestling, with Top Rank’s Bob Arum and HBO sports chief Ken Hershman making up one team and Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefter and Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza as the other. They should all wear their customary suits and ties. Now that’s worth pay-per-view.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable (Permanent Press, 2012) is available online and at better bookstores everywhere. Information HERE