SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 26, 2018 – HBO Boxing’s “Boxing After Dark” series has delivered some tremendous action including several Fights of the Year over the past two decades: Ward-Gatti 1, two thirds of the Rios-Alvarado trilogy, and 2016 Fight of the Year and perhaps the Fight of the Decade between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido. Several stars of the sport used BAD to launch their careers: Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, Wladimir Klitschko, Marco Antonio Barrera and Shane Mosley.
The 22nd season of HBO Boxing After Dark gets underway Saturday with two action matchups from The Forum in Inglewood, California at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Latino.
Lucas Matthysse of Argentina (38-4, 35 KOs) continues a comeback of sorts, fighting in the welterweight division for the second time against challenger Tewa Kiram Of Thailand (38-0, 28 KOs). The 12-round fight offers up the vacant WBA welterweight title.
Matthysse, 35, has enjoyed plenty of success during his 14-year career and thrilled many fans with his aggressive style. He suffered a difficult, demoralizing loss to Viktor Postol in 2015, suffering an eye injury in the process. He decided to return as a welterweight in May on the Canelo vs. Chavez undercard, delivering an impressive fifth round stoppage of Emmanuel Taylor, dropping him twice before the bout was stopped.
Kiram, the number two ranked WBA contender, is a decade younger than Matthysse at 25 and somewhat of an unknown to American fans. He’s never fought outside Thailand, and now he’ll be on stage in one of the most storied American venues in boxing. He’s racked up his record against fairly uninspiring opponents. But you could say the same thing about Srisikat Sor Rungvisai before he took on the world’s top pound for pound fighter and beat him twice, Roman Gonzalez.
With this in mind, Matthysse and trainer Joel Diaz know they can’t mess around with a potentially dangerous opponent with a belt on the line. “Lucas Matthysse is the type of fighter I like to train,” said Diaz. “He’s aggressive. He has heavy hands. I’m committed to taking advantage of this opportunity–the opportunity that he has to win a world title. This Saturday you will see a new Lucas Matthysse.”
“La Machina” matches the confidence of his trainer. “We prepared for this fight really well,” said Matthysse. “This Saturday, we will walk away with a world title. We know that he (Kiram) manages his distance well and that he has a good jab, but we prepared for that. We learned a few things, but I assure the fans that they will once again see the “Machine” this Saturday.”
Kiram disagrees that he’s the underdog in the fight, and has no intension of following the script. “I can’t reveal it now, but if I find an opportunity, I’ll take it. Lucas Matthysse is coming from 140 to 147, so I feel good about that. I’ll be the naturally bigger guy in there. I’m very relaxed, even though this is my first fight outside of Thailand … With a win, I’ll come back here very soon and fight again.”
Matthysse narrowly missed out on two title shots against Postol and Danny Garcia before him. This might be his final opponent to take a title home to his ranch in Argentina. It should be entertaining for fans, even if it doesn’t last long.
The card opens with world lineal lightweight champion Jorge Linares of Venezuela via Japan (43-3, 27 KOs) defending his title for the sixth time against Mercito Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs), a native of the Philippines living in San Diego. Linares returns to The Forum for a second straight appearance; the last being in September 2016 when he defeated Luke Campbell of Great Britain.
“I’m here to give a good fight,” said Linares. “I trained in Japan, and I trained here in the states. I’m not thinking about any other fight right now. Gesta is a tough fighter. He’a a quick southpaw who is dangerous. It’s very important to be victorious this Saturday. Bigger and better things will come with a victory this Saturday.”
If there was ever a must-win situation for a boxer, Gesta is staring one down. Now working with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who knows a thing or two about working with Filipino born boxers, Gesta says he’s been working hard toward a good performance. “I’ve been training hard for this fight. This is my second shot at a title, and I’ll make the most of it with a knockout victory,” promised Gesta.
It’s a lot to promise, but Roach said it’s been a good training camp, and agreed Gesta has worked hard to prepare.
No disrespect meant to Roach or to Gesta, whose only loss was to former lightweight champion Miguel Vasquez in 2012. But this isn’t really the fight fans hoped to see. WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia declined multiple offers by Golden Boy Promotions to put up his title against Linares. WBC President Mauricio Sulieman says he won’t allow any more delays in making this matchup happen after Linares fights on Saturday. We’ll see.
The veteran Linares presents by far the greatest challenge of Gesta’s career. Since his loss, Gesta has been relatively inactive, fighting only six times in five and a half years. Gesta will give his best effort but the elite level hand speed and power of Linares is on another level. Linares has a golden opportunity to put on a show and he should deliver a dominant performance. Once he gets a good look at the southpaw Gesta, count on Linares to rock and roll.
The 22nd season premier of HBO Boxing After Dark is also available via HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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