Argentine Lucas Matthysse believed he was mugged by the New Jersey judges who awarded Zab Judah a split decision victory in their IBF title eliminator late Saturday night at the Prudential Center. Matthysse pounded Judah over the final four rounds, hammering him to the canvas with a right hand in the 10th round.
All three judges scored the fight 114-113. But Joseph Pasquale and Hilton Whitaker both had Judah ahead, and Waleska Roldan voted for Matthysse, who won by the same score on Newsday's card.
"In Argentina, definitely I would have won this fight," Matthysse complained. "I won the fight. I'm the winner."
Although he lost the final four rounds by five points on two cards and four points on the third, Judah piled up enough of an early lead to win so long as he was standing at the final bell. That wasn't an easy task, and he understood the frustration Matthysse felt.
"If we were in Argentina, we probably would have got a different outcome," Judah admitted. "But we're in the great land of America, so, welcome to America . . . No disrespect to [Matthysse], but you can't win four or five rounds of a fight and say you won the whole fight."
Of all the men he's ever fought, Judah said, Matthysse was by far the toughest and strongest. "The dude was punching like he had cinderblocks in his gloves," Judah said.
Matthysse came in with a perfect 27-0 record that included 25 knockouts, and Judah (40-6, 27 KOs) could see why when he felt the heavy body shots Matthysse landed. But Judah used his hand and foot speed as his defense until he absorbed a head butt in the eighth that slowed him down and began to close his left eye.
An emboldened Matthysse got more physical in the ninth, and early in the 10th, he dropped a righthand cinderblock on Judah's chin. Amazingly, Judah was up at the count of five, which he later credited to his conditioning.
"When I went down, I had a deep conversation with the Lord," Judah said. "It was fast to y'all, but it was loooong to me. I was like, 'C'mon, I've been doing everything right. And He was like, 'Don't worry about it. Just keep going, just keep going.' "
Whether it was his faith or good legs, Judah survived to get the judges' nod. He saw no reason for a rematch, choosing to wait and see how two upcoming title fights in the division - Amir Kahn vs. Marcos Rene Maidana and Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander - turn out. He also has the option to fight South African Kaizer Mabuza for the IBF title.
"I think we got the toughest guy out of the way," Judah said of Matthysse. "The other guys don't pose a threat like this guy does. Devon Alexander and Tim Bradley are good fighters, but they're going to box and go the distance. This dude was looking strictly for a knockout. This fight showed I've got a lot of heart."