ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- In the Godzilla movies, the great, giant lizard that demolishes all emerges from the sea. Saturday night on Showtime, boxing's scariest monster emerged onto the beaches of Atlantic City: Lucas Matthysse.
The first victim of a frightening new era for anyone around 140 pounds was Lamont Peterson, no worse than a top four man in the division, and a match-up that divided large swaths of fans nearly evenly. Those of us who picked Peterson were not even close, and even the fans who thought it would be a tight fight were way, way off. After an unexpected defensive duel in the 1st round, Matthysse dropped Peterson at the end of the 2nd with a left to the top of his head that ruined Peterson's equilibrium and resulted in a delayed-reaction knockdown.
With his legs still shaky to start the 3rd, Peterson either couldn't fight at range like he had been or made the decision that he'd have to go inside. He landed one good uppercut that got the small crowd of no more than 2,000 -- but probably less than that -- excited that we could have a real fight on our hands. There was no home field advantage here, despite Matthysse's Argentina being so much farther away from Atlantic City than Peterson's Washington, D.C. Incidentally, Matthysse walked out to AC/DC's "Highway To Hell," so the AC/DC dynamic benefited Matthysse in multiple ways. Bad omen.
Anyway, it was an illusion that Peterson would make something of his refined approach and his uppercut. When the pair traded left hooks, Matthysse landed on his back. When he got back up, referee Steve Smoger let him continue, but maybe he shouldn't have. One more right hand/left hand combo, and Peterson was down again, and this time Smoger understood Peterson was in no shape to continue. Peterson tried to say in the post-fight interview that he was done in by punches to the back of the head, and while there were indeed some rabbit shots, they weren't what caused all the trouble: Peterson just plain got smashed by an evil puncher, and Peterson has nothing to be ashamed of. If he fights Dierry Jean next, as his alphabet sanctioning belt would demand, it's a good bout, and no fans should hold it against Peterson that he got crushed.
The victorious Matthysse was mobbed ringside by his fans, and it's hard not to be excited about him. He's in the hurt business, and he hurts people better than anyone fighting right now. Apparently the plan is still for him to fight Danny Garcia in September, but I wouldn't be surprised if Garcia finds a way out of that one. Before Saturday, I would've picked Garcia to win. No more. While it was easy to have reservations about whether Matthysse was a one-dimensional puncher and not much more based on how he was outboxed pretty extensively even in dubious losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, Matthysse has knocked off the anemic work rate and slow starts of those days. He just sliced through a top-notch contender with the speed of a saw blade shot out of a bazooka. Make no mistake: Matthysse has teeth, and there's no point denying anymore whether everyone should be afraid.