ATLANTIC CITY - Junior-welterweight champions Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson decided they weren't going to allow the politics of boxing to get in the way of them staging a potentially classic fight tonight at Boardwalk Hall.
Because of a dispute between the WBC and IBF, no titles are at stake in their 12-round bout. Instead, they chose to fight at a catch-weight of 141 pounds, one pound above the junior-welterweight limit.
"I got into this sport to fight the best fighters, and Matthysse is one of the best guys out there in our weight class," Peterson said Friday at Caesars Atlantic City. "The belts don't matter this time. Everybody knows this fight means something even though there are no titles on the line. This is the fight the fans wanted to see."
Matthysse-Peterson - a rare matchup of elite fighters in the same weight division - could wind up as one of the year's best fights because of their contrast in styles.
Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs), a 30-year-old native of Argentina, possesses one-punch knockout power. His only two losses were split decisions to Zab Judah at the Prudential Center in Newark three years ago and to Devon Alexander in Alexander's hometown of Saint Charles, Mo., a year later.
Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs), who is now the IBF welterweight champion, will fight England's Lee Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KOs) in tonight's co-feature. Alexander was supposed to be defending his title, but Purdy failed to make the 147-pound limit, weighing in at 147.8 early Friday evening.
"My power will be the key for me in the fight," Matthysse, the WBC interim junior-welterweight champ, said through an interpreter at Caesars on Thursday. "Peterson is a very good fighter, a very good boxer. But I think I can beat him with my power. (Peterson's camp) can say anything they want, but Lamont Peterson will feel my power."
Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs), the IBF junior-welterweight champ, is considered a more well-rounded fighter.
The 29-year-old Washington, D.C., native has the ability to end the bout inside the distance - he notched two knockdowns en route to an eighth-round TKO over former champ Kendall Holt in February - but is more known for his boxing skills, ring generalship and defense. He's expecting this one to go the distance as well.
"I've heard all about his power, but at the end of the day, I think my ability will be the difference," Peterson said. "I know he's going to be looking for a knockout, and I can adapt to whatever he brings."
The fighters took different routes to their showdown.
Matthysse comes from a boxing family. Older brother Walter (26-5, 25 KOs) and sister Soledad Matthysse (10-5-1, 1 KO) still compete. Walter Matthysse fought at Boardwalk Hall in 2007, suffering a third-round knockout against Paul Williams.
Peterson grew up fighting on the streets. One of 12 children, he spent part of his childhood living in homeless shelters and on the streets in Washington after his father went to prison on a drug charge and his mother abandoned the family when Peterson was 10.
Trainer Barry Hunter took in both Lamont and his younger brother, Anthony, who is on tonight's undercard.
"They were just coming out of the shelter," Hunter told CNN.com last year. "I met Lamont and brought him to the gym, and I brought Anthony the next time. We've been together ever since."
Peterson figures to have a sizeable cheering section tonight, considering Washington is about four hours from Atlantic City. He arrived on Wednesday night after attending a news conference in New York.
Matthysse hoped to get to Atlantic City a few days early, but his journey was delayed until Thursday by an incident in his home last week. He returned from a training session in the Tunin section of Buenos Aires to find that someone had smashed a window and stolen several undisclosed items. Strangely, the intruder also tore up Mattysse's passport, forcing him to obtain another one.
His 11-hour flight landed in New York on Thursday morning and he then made the two-hour drive to Atlantic City.
"I usually get robbed inside the ring, not outside," Matthysse said with a laugh. "The most important thing is I'm here and I'm ready to fight. I'm going into the ring with the mentality that I'm going to win."
David Weinberg's predictions: Matthysse by eighth-round knockout; Alexander by decision.
Punchlines: Purdy originally weighed in at 148 pounds at 3:30 p.m. Friday and had two hours to lose the pound, but could only sweat off two-tenths. Alexander will keep his belt regardless of the outcome tonight. Purdy is fighting instead of fellow Brit Kell Brook, who pulled out of the fight four weeks ago with a foot injury.
Tonight's card features 11 total fights. Doors to Boardwalk Hall will open at 3:30 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 4 p.m. Showtime will televise the two co-feature bouts starting at 9 p.m.
Contact David Weinberg: