Heroic Homecoming of Subriel Matias Wrecked By Massive Underdog Liam Paro

June 16, 2024
4 weeks
Liam Paro outpointed Subriel Matias to become IBF super lightweight world champion

Subriel Matias had developed a reputation for being one of the most avoided fighters in boxing, so finding credible opponents for his long-awaited homecoming to Puerto Rico proved challenging.

None of his fellow world champions at super-lightweight were too keen on a unification bout on account of the heavy-handed Matias knocking out all 20 of his professional opponents.

Liam Paro was more than happy to answer the call, no doubt motivated by a world title shot and an opportunity to shock the world. The unbeaten Australian boasted a strong record of his own, amassing a 24-0-0 start to his pro career, but was expected to adopt little more than the role of supporting character in the blockbuster movie that was Matias’ heroic return to home soil.

Instead, on Saturday night inside a packed 10,000-capacity Coliseo Juan Aubin Cruz Abreu in Manati, Paro flipped the script. The Brisbane native – a massive 6/1 underdog – fought against not only a fearsome champion but a baying crowd and a strangely petty referee. Despite all the obstacles, Paro emerged victorious, and convincingly so.

Paro A Convincing Winner

After 12 rounds, there was never any danger of Paro not having his arm raised in victory and the IBF strap wrapped around his waist. All three judges gave the Australian the decision with scores of 115-112, 116-111 and 115-112 – a result that could have been wider had Paro not been harshly deducted a point in the seventh round for rabbit punches.

“We knew it was going to be hard,” Paro said. ” I keep proving everyone wrong. He’s tough, he has 20 knockouts for a reason. I knew I was coming into the lion’s den.”

Paro’s victory emulates that of fellow Australian George Kambosos Jr. back in 2021 when he too entered the “lion’s den” to face then unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez in his hometown of New York and duly shocked the world.

Paro will now hope to do what Kambosos was unable to by establishing himself at the top of his division; since his career-defining win over Lopez, Kambosos has lost all three world title fights he’s contested.

Incidentally, Lopez and Devin Haney – who beat Kambosos twice – are possible unification options, with the Americans holding the WBO and WBC titles respectively at 140lbs. Isaac Cruz is the other super-lightweight champion and holds the WBA belt.

Disappointing Night For Matias

“I’m on top of the world right now, I’m honestly speechless,” Paro said. “I’ve been a road warrior, let’s bring the big fights back to Queensland.”

While the night and the glory belonged to Paro, ultimately the major storyline is fixated on a hugely disappointing result and performance from Matias.

Fighting in Puerto Rico for the first time since November 2019 – and the first time ever since becoming world champion in February 2023 – the scene was set for Matias to demonstrate his belief that he is the “first, second, third and fourth” best fighter at super-lightweight.

A routinely slow starter, everyone watching, including the commentators, excused the lack of action from Matias for the first two or three rounds. But as the fight progressed, it was clear the champion was struggling to pin down Paro, whose high-volume punch output, fast hands and constant movement proved to be a puzzle Matias couldn’t solve.

Back To Drawing Board For Matias?

Paro had no ambition to knock out Matias, perhaps aware that engaging in a close-range firefight could end badly for the challenger. Still, his vast volume of punches accumulatively took their toll, and despite knowing he needed a late stoppage, Matias couldn’t find the power and energy to make it happen.

Matias now needs to regroup and rebuild his career for a second time. The last and only other time he suffered defeat – to Petros Ananyan in February 2020 – the Puerto Rican responded with a five-fight win streak, including exacting revenge on Ananyan with a stoppage.

There is no doubting Matias’ power but this defeat to Paro could provide an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and round out his skillset.

Paro gave all future opponents the blueprint for how to comfortably beat this version of Matias, namely landing a high volume and variation of punches while constantly staying on the move. If Matias can return with the skills and strategies to counter such a gameplan, he can become world champion again.

Whatever happens next, Saturday in Puerto Rico delivered another twist in an already intriguing super-lightweight division.