BOXING

Matthysse Notches Bizarre KO, Linares Outclasses Gesta

Lucas Matthysse Takes Out Tewa Kiram With Two Jabs, Isn’t Anywhere Near Ready For Terence Crawford or Errol Spence

Lucas Matthysse came to fame on the strength of, well, his strength — the heavy hands that broke down guys like Ajose Olusegun and John Molina Jr. in extended battles, and the power that blasted out Lamont Peterson early.

But something still seemed strange about the way he beat Tewa Kiram this past Saturday night.

Matthysse knocked Kiram out in the eighth round, dropping him twice with jabs, the second time putting Kiram down for the count and for several minutes afterward. It was a weird conclusion to a fight that just wasn’t that good, and in which Matthysse didn’t look that good either.

Kiram often worked behind his own jab, relying on that and foot movement to wisely keep distance between himself and Matthysse’s power and pressure. Matthysse pursued, not throwing much and not landing much, doing enough to win rounds but not at all looking like the fearsome bruiser he once had been.

Through three rounds, Matthysse had landed just 20 punches out of 98 thrown, according to CompuBox. Kiram, meanwhile, was 22 of 105.

Kiram came out with a burst of confidence in the fourth, pushing Matthysse backward and letting loose with several combinations. Matthysse was able to land a good counter right hand, and by the fifth he was once again the one coming forward. Matthysse landed the occasional right, while Kiram twice was able to score with a right hand before moving out of range again.

“He moved really well, and he was really big,” Matthysse said afterward. “That’s why it was hard to cut the distance.”

Matthysse said he didn’t feel Kiram’s power, but he wasn’t able to just walk through Kiram’s punches. He would defend, or dodge, and reset and come forward again. Kiram wasn’t running, but he was often staying just out of range, and Matthysse didn’t have the footwork to close the distance.

Going into the eighth round, Matthysse had landed 52 of 229 punches (a 23 percent connect rate), including 35 of 126 power shots (28 percent). Kiram was 49 of 257 (19 percent), with most of his landed punches coming via jabs — 39 by that point.

And then Matthysse’s jabs brought the fight to an end.

The first knockdown came about 40 seconds into the round. Matthysse landed a jab. Kiram began to move to his left to get away, only to get caught with a glancing right hand. He dropped hard onto his back yet otherwise seemed fine, crouching by the count of four or five, then taking a few more seconds before rising the rest of the way.

Kiram fired back with a left and a right. Matthysse missed with a big looping right. Kiram threw a one-two while Matthysse fired a jab. Kiram followed through with his right hand after taking the punch, then dropped down to the canvas. He was conscious but looked out of it enough for the referee to stop the fight. Kiram remained down for an extended period of time. The punch hadn’t looked like it was enough to hurt him, never mind put him in as dire straits as he seemed to be.

Nevertheless it was the end. Matthysse was up on two judges’ scorecards at the time, 69-64 (six rounds to one) and 68-65 (five rounds to two), while the third judge had Kiram ahead 68-54 (five rounds to two).

This was Kiram’s first pro loss. He is now 38-1 with 28 knockouts. He’d been down before, according to BoxRec, getting off the canvas to beat a 15-6 foe named Dan Nazareno in 2011, picking himself off the mat to beat a 21-4-1 opponent named Behzbod Nabiev in 2013, and needing to come back from an early knockdown last year against a 22-11-1 foe named Ramadhani Shauri.

Perhaps he just doesn’t have much of a chin. Or perhaps he’d just had enough against Matthysse.

Matthysse, however, didn’t show enough to establish himself as a top welterweight. This was his second fight back after his shocking 2015 knockout loss to Viktor Postol down at 140 pounds. Matthysse returned last year as a welterweight and with a TKO of Emanuel Taylor. He is now 39-4 with 36 KOs. Yet there was nothing in his performance against Kiram to suggest that he could handle the slick boxing of Terence Crawford or the fast hands of Errol Spence.

It’s no surprise, then, that Matthysse instead mentioned a couple other 147-pounders.

“I want the rematch with Danny Garcia or Manny Pacquiao,” he said.

(Garcia edged Matthysse in 2013.)

Those are the kinds of fights that would be for Matthysse. It’s quite possible that he’s in decline, that time (he turned pro in 2004) and age (he’s 35) and wear and tear (he had particularly rough battles with Molina and Ruslan Provodnikov and then got stopped by Postol) are taking their toll.

There are plenty of names available at 147. Matthysse and his team would be wise to pick the right ones.

Jorge Linares Wins Wide Decision Over Mercito Gesta; Will Big Fight Come Soon?

Lightweight titleholder Jorge Linares’ latest defense of his belt brought a far more comfortable victory than in his previous appearance.

Last September, Linares took a close, competitive split decision over Luke Campbell. On Saturday night, the scores were much wider against Mercito Gesta. Two of the judges had it 118-110 (10 rounds to two), while the third judge had it 117-111 (nine rounds to three).

That wasn’t because of a lack of effort from Gesta. He came forward early, using activity to try to make Linares uncomfortable. Linares came on in the later part of the round, figuratively standing his ground, establishing that he wasn’t going to be intimidated or overwhelmed. While Gesta was outclassed, he did have moments when he was able to land clean, thanks in part to Linares remaining in range too long after finishing up his combinations.

But over time, it was Linares’ combinations and skills that allowed him to take over. He landed flashier shots and harder blows, including nearly 42 percent of his power punches. He landed more often. He took the punches Gesta was able to land, though he did suffer a cut near his right eye in the eighth.

“I didn’t really feel his [Gesta’s] power, though I hurt my hand in the fourth or fifth round,” Linares said afterward. “I threw my right hand without really putting too much power into it. I was just touching him.”

Said Gesta: “He adjusted well to my style after the first couple of rounds.”

Linares is now 44-3 with 27 KOs. He’s won 13 straight since suffering back-to-back stoppage losses to Antonio DeMarco in 2011 and Sergio Thompson in 2012. A career that seemed like it could’ve been over back then has been rebuilt.

Now it’s time to move on toward stiffer tests. Among the dream scenarios that have been floated are bouts with Vasyl Lomachenko, the 130-pound great who is likely to move up to 135 soon, and Mikey Garcia, who is competing at both 135 and 140 and will face Sergey Lipinets for a junior welterweight title in March.
Gesta is now 31-2-2 with 17 KOs. His other defeat came against then-lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez back in 2012.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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