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Mike Dallas Jr.: Ready as He Will Ever Be

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Through 22 professional fights comprised of 98 rounds, 19 wins, eight knockouts, two losses and one draw, Bakersfield, CA junior welterweight contender Mike Dallas Jr. has been searching for himself as a fighter. As an amateur, Dallas won bronze, silver and (in one instance) gold medals competing in national tournaments. As a pro, his lack of power and strength early on, coupled with a seeming inability to handle roughhouse styles, stymied his passage to the upper levels of the sport. Saturday night on Showtime (from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, 10 p.m., ET/PT), Dallas Jr. gets a chance to prove just how much he has learned from those setbacks when he faces off against hard-hitting Argentinean Lucas Matthysse, 32-2 (30).
 
The fight is a potential graduation of sorts for Dallas. Since he turned pro, Dallas has moved from gym to gym, searching for the right mix of quality sparring potential and chemistry with a head coach. He appears to have found that in Virgil Hunter up in Oakland, CA.

“Yeah, I have found myself now,” Dallas told leaveitintheringradio.com in a recent interview. “My time at Wild Card, I had what, three pro fights? One or two? So it was all just learning, getting accustomed to the pro game.”
 
With a stable that features Andre Ward, Alfredo Angulo, Fernando Guerrero, Brandon Gonzalez and Amir Khan, among others, Dallas gets what he humbly refers to as “good work” on a regular basis. Hunter’s experience, attention to technique and a willingness to let his fighter show him what needs to be learned has served Dallas well in their four fights together.
 
“The sparring we have in the stable now and the camps I have been in the past, it’s basically you are tested every day,” said Dallas. “You can’t come in the gym and have a bad day; you know what I mean? If you are not ready for sparring, you’ll get taken advantage of in there. You got top-of-the-line pros in there. You’ve got to bring it every day.”
 
Since his move to Hunter’s camp in Oakland four fights ago, Dallas has slowly but surely tightened his game and become a better, all-around fighter. His balance has improved as Hunter sharpened up his stance. Improved leverage thus more power come with that solid foundation.
 
“I think he has grown tremendously and I think he has learned from his losses,” Hunter told Maxboxing.com on Monday. “He is much stronger than he was, much, much stronger. He has also embraced training in between fights. I give him a great chance. I wouldn’t be surprised at him being victorious at all.”
 
On a personal note, Dallas suffered personal tragedy but has increased responsibility, adding a layer to his training and fighting.
 
“He certainly has matured,” Hunter said. “The loss of his dad, which impressed upon him assuming the roles of his father had in regard to his immediate family. He’s had to assume those roles. He has a lot on his shoulders. I think he is equipped to handle it and I kind of think it carries over to his fighting. I think he understands that it can be much easier if things are a little bit more stable. He understands what adjustments he needs to make. Saying that, he is prepared to win this fight.”
 
Dallas had roughly five weeks to prepare for this fight, a week or so less than most top fighters would want in order to face a fighter of Matthysse’s caliber. Hunter credits Dallas’ in-between fight camps prep as the reason they jumped at the fight.
 
“I was going to fight in December but the fight fell through so I had to come home for a week-and-a-half. So I was already mostly in training,” explained Dallas, who got the call when promotional issues caused Matthysse’s original opponent to pull out of the fight.
 
When Dallas got the call and readily accepted, “basically, people were avoiding the fight. I ain’t scared of him. I am ready to go and am really prepared for the fight.”
 
Hunter explained that Dallas had helped prepare both Amir Khan and Alfredo Angulo for their yearend fights for 2012. Dallas was simply idling in the garage ready to be called upon.
 
“When got the call, I knew he was 85%,” said Hunter. “I had just given him two weeks off and he was in the second week of that three. He came right back up. He had four, five weeks to prepare. I am not worried about his conditioning. He worked really, really hard. He understood that conditioning will be a big, big factor in him winning this fight. He has to be in condition.”
 
In Matthysse, Dallas faces much of what gave him trouble before in his losses: a relentless pressure fighter with power in both hands and underestimated boxing skills.
 
“No doubt this is the toughest opponent that we’ve fought. Taking nothing away from Matthysse. He is a tough, tough hombre,” said Hunter. “Whether or not we can tame or manage him or take advantage of a couple flaws I believe he has, that’s going to be the question. And to have the condition to keep him quiet. I mean, Michael is not going to lay down for Matthysse; I know that.”
 
Dallas will have to be mindful of when to adjust his lines of attack and strategy throughout this fight. Matthysse is a one-shot, knockout puncher and one mistake can be all she wrote.
 
“I also know that Michael has a style that can create a lot of problems for Matthysse,” said Hunter, who explained that Dallas understands he is a boxer at heart but also has other useful styles he has learned along the way. “A boxer, a slugger, a brawler, which can show up at any given time. It’s very hard to get set on Mike. I think that’s going to make for an interesting fight.”
 
“I have more I can do now. I am not just one style. I wasn’t physical [early in my career]. I would let people push me around. It’s all coming together,” said Dallas.
 
Early in his career, I watched Dallas work with Manny Pacquiao over an afternoon. At the time, Dallas had a good jab and right hand but he didn’t get all the power in his right rear punch and his jab went away after a few rounds. On the inside, he could be had to the body and head. He seemed unsure of himself, essentially a fighter who excelled as an amateur but hadn’t learned how to fight like a pro yet. Hunter has done much to adjust all that.
 
“[Hunter] is making me an all-around boxer so I can be accustomed to anything that happens in the ring,” said Dallas.
 
“I think he got pushed around not because he wasn’t tough or rugged. I just think he didn’t have an idea of what to do,” Hunter explained. “He kind of went to their style of brawling instead of making them come to his style of infighting. I think once he understood the art of infighting and what you do there, he made quite an adjustment. Take a look at the Castro fight and I think you can see it,” said Hunter, referring to Dallas’ June 2012 six-round knockout of Javier Castro.
 
All confidence aside, Hunter knows danger lurks within Matthysse. At the same time, he tempers that wariness with the reality of his foe.
 
“[Matthysse’s] got some attributes. Don’t get me wrong,” said Hunter. “He has some attributes but he has a tendency to stay with what is confident in.”
 
The key will be recognizing when Matthysse is comfortable and to change enough to get him out of that zone. Easier said than done.
 
“Logic says it’s a distance fight but who knows what happens?” surmised Hunter. “I’ve never really seen Lucas get cracked before to the body or something like that, so I don’t know. [Dallas’] power is much more than his knockout ratio indicates.”
 
While Dallas has only eight knockouts in 22 fights, he is coming off a stoppage win and appears as confident and ready as he possibly could be. He also enjoys a near-three-inch height advantage. While he may be the underdog with a pressure style coming right at him, Dallas might be in the driver’s seat come Saturday night.
 
“Just box and stay smart. That’s basically it,” said Dallas. “I just have to box and stay smart. That is always what it is. Just box him and counter off his mistakes. If a knockout punch comes, it comes.”
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
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