For the past few years, Lucas Matthysse has built a reputation as a hard-luck fighter who was unable to secure the benefit of the doubt from American judges in the two biggest fights of his career.
But after his two most recent bouts -– culminating in Saturday's dismantling of an incredibly gutsy Olusegun Ajose at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas -– you now could make the case that Matthysse is rebranding himself as the best fighter in the world at 140 pounds.
Following up on his five-round destruction of Humberto Soto in June, Matthysse (32-2, 30 KOs, 1 ND) finished the previously unbeaten Ajose (31-1, 14 KOs) with an exclamation point of a right hand to claim an interim junior welterweight title. Referee Russell Mora called an end to the bout by technical knockout at 2:59 of Round 10 just as Ajose fell to the canvas for the first time as a professional.
The Nigerian-born Ajose, who fights out of England, had long been the WBC's No. 1 contender, but he had been continuously passed over for a title shot. His willingness to make the most of his opportunity, standing in the pocket and trading with the heavier-punching Matthysse, produced continuous two-way action in an incredibly exciting bout, considering the one-sided nature of the outcome.
Unlike in his controversial split-decision losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, the hard-charging Matthysse jumped out of the gate early with a relentless attack of combination punching that consistently cornered and hurt the southpaw Ajose against the ropes.
Ajose showed tremendous resolve to withstand brutal punishment and keep firing back, eventually to his own detriment. Despite good hand speed and slick boxing ability, Ajose was never able to hurt Matthysse and spent too much time in front of him trying to do so.
Matthysse was able to steal the rounds in which he was outworked simply by landing the heavier blows that backed up Ajose in the final 30 seconds. Ajose was game throughout and never stopped attacking, but he eventually broke from the unyielding pressure in the 10th, after a series of merciless right hands led to the finish.
The question now becomes: Who at 140 pounds will be able to withstand the kind of pressure and balanced attack that Matthysse has produced over his past two bouts?
With his two disputed defeats -– both coming in his opponents' hometowns -– you could make the case that Matthysse should be undefeated at this point. And with his rocket right hand that the Argentine claims has floored every one of his professional opponents, you also could make the case that Matthysse is the most dangerous junior welterweight opponent available.