Only a few people were able to watch the "private fight" between junior welterweights Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse. Seven years ago, they were top amateurs in Argentina and a private fight was put together to prove which of them was better. In the present, they are both top five contenders in one of the most talented weight division in boxing, 140-pounds.
TO FIGHT IN PRIVATE
It was Saturday night at the Argentine Boxing Federation Stadium. And we took notice when Sebastián Luján had knocked out Sergio Acuña in only one round. The news spread by word of mouth as a whisper: “Next Monday there will be a private fight. Next Monday, March 29th, 2004, Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse will fight and the winner will go to Brazil, in the 140-pound division, for the pre-Olympic tournament”.
We had never seen a fight in private, but as a matter of fact, some training sessions looked like real battles. It’s common to hear things like this. When Ray Leonard fought Marvelous Hagler, he put together a couple of real bouts in private, because he had a layoff of two years. And it’s normal to know that among the National Teams there are some special days where the training sessions are real fights.
But never like this. Because the bout was in the ABF Stadium, with a referee, judges and everything, but behind closed doors, no people and almost nobody in attendance.
WHY A FIGHT IN PRIVATE? “Because it’s something special” - told us Luis Romio, the legendary man of the ABF. "Because the two boxers are in a tremendous shape, because they have had big bouts but…there is room for only one in the Argentinean Team. If we choose one of them, the other one will have bad feelings. This way, there will be no doubts. They are tremendous fighters, and fighting before an audience, they can feel the extra pressure, for them and the judges.”
We arrived more than an hour before the fight and took a cup of coffee with Osvaldo Bisbal (ABF president), Luis Romio, Jorge Domínguez - the National Team’s trainer, Carlos Rodríguez, Jorge Molina, all of them from the ABF. However, during the occasional meeting, nobody said a word about the fight. At one point, Bisbal left his place and we all followed him… But it was in vain: “The boys haven’t arrived yet”, said someone. “We must keep waitin”".
“The boys”, of course, are the boxers of the National Team. And suddenly, the old stadium opened its doors: empty and oblivious…
There were only a dozen witnesses, with only two journalists: Marcelo González and the author of this article, plus a photo reporter, Ramón Cairo, from our magazine “Ring Side”.
“Take this card, I want your opinion too”, said Bisbal, giving me one. As a tacit agreement, each one of us sat apart from the other. We went to the dressing rooms…
IN THE SOLITUDE of the dressing rooms, both of them stood. Matthysse and a very serious Maidana, so close together, and, also, so far from each other. No bad feelings and they did not look each other in the eyes. Their friends around them. Close to Matthysse, was Matías Ferreira and Omar Narváez’s younger brother, Daniel (who was is in the National Team, 105 pounds) On the Maidana corner, young Daniel Brizuela (126 pounds and in the National Team) and Pablo Chacón’s younger brother, Javier (in the national Team in 112). They went with them to the ring.
No Jorge Domínguez, no Santiago Nieva, no Héctor Morales, the official trainers. It was a fight - man-to-man - that’s all.
-Bisbal is asking if you are ready.
-Just in 10 minutes –said Matthysse.
-Okay, 10 minutes –said Maidana’s people.
We went to our front row positions. Next to us, Luis Romio, with a blow counting machine (as it’s used in the AIBA bouts), and a couple of meters further, Bisbal with another one.
And, in front of us, in the balcony, completely alone, standing up like a man in a ship looking at the horizon, Jorge Fernando Castro, slipping away from side to side, like a ghost boat…
FOR US, Maidana won the first two rounds, not only because of his speed; Matthysse allowed him to take the initiative. The third round was even, but edge was give for Lucas by a narrow margin. In the fourth, Matthysse put all his strength in the ring, winning it.
Only one round remaining. Matthysse kept the pressure, Maidana had to counter-punch. What to do? It was prohibited to give any draw rounds, to prevent a draw decision. This journalist (as a lot of the other people did) gave the fifth and final round to Maidana. Marcos looked more impressive in the rounds he won, more than Lucas did in his.
We can say that, in a “normal” bout, a logical decision would be a draw, with applause for both of them for their style and technical attitude. We were waiting for a tremendous battle, but it wasn’t. But we must also say, that it was a very good bout, where intelligence beat brute force. The blow counting machine said: 38-31 blows for Maidana, who obtained his third victory, with one draw, over Lucas.
WE PUT IN OUR VOTES as if it were a Presidential Election Day. Doctor Hugo Rodríguez Papini and Luis Romio took all the votes and the winner was Marcos Maidana. We entered the dressing rooms with the boxers. No words. Matthysse, looking at the floor, pulled off his shirt.
Rodríguez Papini -the National Teams’ doctor for over 25 years- entered the scene.
-Please, both of you, sit here.
They sat one to one, as in the confessional room. No staring at each other, nor looking at the doctor, just listening, with their heads low…like children at school.
-It was a very good fight. Very, very clever and even. The votes were 9 to 1. I congratulate both of you. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the future. It was a very good fight. Congratulations again.
When the doctor left the room, Jorge Domínguez embraced the loser:
-You made such a great fight! Remember, Lucas, you will be world champion.
The young boxer, without a word, started crying.
We left the place. Maidana told us:
-We are roommates and close friends. Tonight, we’ll talk. We are good friends, and sometimes, things like this happen…
We walked to the street. It was a hot afternoon. The people were waiting outside, waiting for the other fights, and ignoring the drama. The pure and candid crying of Matthysse was our companion for a while.
Mathysse cried, and we cried with him, with pride for our old and dear boxing, a sport that can produce moments like this.
PHOTOS BY RAMON CAIRO. TRANSLATION BY NICO SAMUILOV. This article first appeared in “Ring Side Magazine” in Buenos Aires, Argentina, issue number 81, March 2004.
Editors Note: The Argentinian team went to Brazil in April. Maidana defeated Austin Jopseh (Virgin Islands) and was defeated on points (39-24) by Rock Allen (USA). The entire national team was defeated, but Brizuela –who is a professional now- got his ticket to Athens. The Argentinian Martin Islas was defeated by Blas Pascal.