Viktor Postol vs Lucas Matthysse & Humberto Soto vs Antonio Orozco
BY KID HERSH
HBO Boxing After Dark! From the StubHub Center in Carson California came a doubleheader that many have been looking forward to.
First up was Humberto Soto (65-8-2, 35ko's) vs Antonio Orozco (22-0, 15ko's). Orozco is getting another stiff test here after Emmanuel Taylor. He is expected to win, but Soto is no easy task even at this point in his career. In the first round Orozco looked tense, tight, nervous, and hesitant as Soto got off his shots first and made Orozco miss a lot of his shots that were mostly attempts at retaliation. Soto hit the younger fighter with jabs and occasional right hands but mainly he was using veteran moves like feinting and positioning with his feet to outpoint Orozco. In the second round Orozco did exactly what he needed to do after the first round; drag the old vet into a war on the inside. Soto, in the past, was at home on the inside also but at this point in his career Orozco was able to outwork him with pure energy. The action slowed in the third round, with Orozco still pressing but not as relentlessly as in the second round. I felt like he was still getting the slightly better of the action, although very minimal because neither man landed much of note and Soto's work rate really dropped this round, with Orozco controlling the action for the majority of the round and Soto landing some great counters in the last thirty seconds. The fourth round was another fairly close one like the third but another round in which I thought that Orozco was the busier man who controlled the ring for longer periods of time than Soto. Soto would only control the round when he was landing a good counter or getting off first, which was sporadic, but he could not keep the control for long despite landing some nice shots. Also Soto is head hunting while Orozco is putting in good body work thus far. The action continued along the same lines in the fifth but in the sixth round Soto came on strong, coming forward and getting off his shots first as he seemed to cut the ring off well on Orozco while he was trying to add more lateral movement and box the older veteran. In the seventh round we saw more even keeled action again, with Orozco getting very busy and pressing the action again (good change up from "boxing" in the sixth round that clearly didn't work). For the first minute of the seventh round Orozco outworked Soto, but then Soto came alive and ended up landing the better shots down the stretch of the seventh while getting off first and blunting the output of Orozco. In the coming rounds Orozco was actually pulling off his boxing from the outside that he tried in the sixth round with no avail. This is likely because this time around he was much busier and was getting off his punches and making Soto react to him. It could also be because it looks to my eyes like the veteran is having a hard time keeping up with the younger man, as he is breathing heavily through his mouth and Orozco, while sapped a bit from the close fight, has more gas in the tank - likely due to the good body work he put in while Soto has been head hunting. Two minutes into the ninth round, while Orozco was boxing beautifully, he let off a combination to the body with one shot straying low. Unfortunately referee Jerry Cantu not only gave Soto a timeout to recoup but he also docked a point from Orozco with no previous warning! I hate when things like this happen, where it just seems like a knee jerk reaction "to be fair", with Soto going to the canvas in pain and so the referee is likely feeling like he has to do something with all eyes on him. No I say to the referees out there - just give the fighter the break he needs and give a stern warning to the offender and then let the action ensue! Replays would actually show that the shot was even marginal - right on the lower portion of the belt line with half the glove on and half the glove off the line. Hard to imagine why there was a point deduction in a pretty close fight with no warning, as the HBO crew pointed out in a perplexed manner as well. In the tenth and final round it was yet again back and forth action (with a little extra to end it!) with Orozco again coming on very strong to start the round but Soto was the man to close it out, as he came forward and threw straight combinations while Orozco was circling the ring. It is times like this that are perplexing to me, because Soto looks a bit ragged as he moves around while breathing through his mouth and noticeably struggling to keep the work rate up (but doing it well with good shots) and Orozco does not look very spent to my eyes but yet at the same time does actually look tired in a manner where he is trying to get away from Soto and coast, even though it is a close fight and he needs the upper hand. Perhaps Soto can just dig deeper than Orozco. The cards would come in 98-91 and 97-92 on two for Orozco - for the very clear UD. Surprising scores, although I think it could have gone either way and so I could see him winning but not by these margins! Keep in mind there was a point deduction on Orozco so this means 9 out of 10 rounds and 8 out of 10 rounds were given to Orozco by the judges. The final punch stats were very close, with Orozco slightly busier but Soto more accurate with both landing near the same amount. Orozco landed more than double the body shots and more power shots though, which is why I would also score the fight for him, albeit closer - along the lines of 95-94 or perhaps 96-93 if I wanted to stretch another round for Orozco. Orozco is still undefeated but to me he needs to show us that he has another gear for the big fights because both this fight and his previous one against Taylor showed that he is still struggling with gatekeepers to the title. I feel like he needs a trainer to light a fire under his ass to get moving in some rounds that could swing either way but thus far the judges are eeking towards him.
Main event time with Lucas Matthysse (37-3, 34ko's) vs Viktor Postol (27-0, 11ko's). Postol is like Klitschko in terms of Ukrainian, degree in physical education, and really on the cutting edge of newer findings in sports science and utilizing them in his training camps. Postol is still a bit of an enigma, where to people like me tend to think that he still has to show us something at the top level and he may be in over his head against Matthysse. The other train of thought, that brings him to only a 2/1 underdog (I would have thought it would be more like 3/1 or even more), is that he has looked fantastic thus far to the viewing audience and hasn't even shown much for chinks in the armor. Also for the latter group Freddie Roach recently said that Postol is his new favorite fighter and the real deal. I favor Matthysse who is an underrated boxer and a hellacious puncher with good stamina as opposed to Postol who has looked good but is taking a big step up. We shall see. Both fighters tested with VADA for the fight (voluntary anti-doping) with HBO trumping up that that this is the way a lot of fighters are going, with GGG and Lemieux doing the same voluntary testing. In the first round it was very sloppy action with a good amount of clinching. Matthysse was trying to get in range of the very very long and rangy Postol while Postol was trying to keep him on the outside with jabs and footwork. Neither man landed anything of note in the feeler round. Postol made it very clear in the first and also the second round that he is respecting Matthysse's power because his game plan is obviously to keep his right hand plastered to his chin and keep Matthysse on the outside as much as possible. I have to wonder how he is going to win rounds like this though, because he appears trigger shy thus far. He would not open up until the end of the second round, where he found a bit of rhythm while keeping Matthysse on the outside and then clinching when Matthysse wildly tried to work his way in. He was trying to get in by jabbing to the body but Postol is just too long with too good of footwork to let it happen. Referee Jack Reiss even had to give his signature line (calm down) when the men were rabbit punching back and forth two minutes into the round when Matthysse looked frustrated and was just bull rushing in and throwing hooks that he was hoping would land anywhere. Postol was again getting the better of the action in the third round as well - with Lampley quipping "not pretty, but effective" - which is I think a perfect way to sum up Postol taking the fight over. He is either keeping Matthysse on the far outside or he is smothering him on the inside, effectively not allowing him to get off much but also anything Matthysse is landing is not landing flush. In the fourth round Matthysse finally landed some flush shots - notably a couple of left hooks that he is well known for putting people to sleep with. The punches had little to no effect on Postol though, as it just dawned on me that Postol is so much rangier and taller that Matthysse is punching a far ways not just in length but up - and I think these factors are combining to take his usual one-punch power out of the equation thus far. That is, aside from the fact that he also just isn't landing much of anything and is befuddled by Postol's range and footwork (combined with the clinching when he does get inside). In the fifth round Matthysse got more urgent and tried to hunt down Postol and land some power, which he did, such as the right hand that smacked home a little over a minute into the round. The shot had Postol literally shaking his head clear and got him right back to boxing his man at range, with Matthysse still not able to cut the ring off and get work in effectively. In the sixth round Matthysse had his most effective punching of the fight, although it was still a bit sloppy but it was landing in spots. He was unpredictable and throwing overhands as well as looping shots in attempts to do damage of any kind. This continued on into the sixth round as he had further success with his aggressive nature, landing a right hand after slipping a jab. The punch looked like it momentarily stunned Postol as he backed up on slightly wobbly legs but recouped very fast. Matthysse continued to be aggressive and a bit reckless but it is working as he is landing more punches and not allowing Postol to control the outside as easily. Postol for his part looks like he is handling the pressure and punches well but I am not seeing any adjustments made yet. In the eighth round Postol went right back to being the ring general, getting busy with the jab and moving around the ring, getting his shots off and then easily moving out of range. Matthysse's punch output went right down to dismal and he was swinging at mostly air. In the ninth round it was all Postol as he was firing off combinations that he couldn't miss with and looked like he was breaking down the Argentinian, although to my eyes it looks even more mental as Matthysse is frustrated and exhausted from trying to land and do damage but getting nowhere. In the tenth round it was still all Postol, and then nearing the very of the round Matthysse was trying to work his way inside and left his left hand out and low, leaving his left side unprotected while coming forward. Postol unleashed a right hand that was a bit of a check hook hybrid that landed perfectly flush to Matthysse's left eye. The shot put him down and he shockingly took the whole ten count while on one knee, with blood trickling to the canvas. Boy, didn't see this one coming!