Mateusz Masternak Prepares To Continue World Title Bid
Mateusz Masternak (35-2, 25 KOs) is a man very much back on the title hunt. The 28 year-old cruiserweight returns to the ring this Saturday against Johnny Muller (18-4-2, 13 KOs) at the Emperors Palace in Gauteng, South Africa, in a fight he dare not lose.
On The March
The Pole, who is highly ranked in the top 15 by all four of the sanctioning bodies, has been in excellent form of late, and will look to continue his progression towards a first world title shot with victory over Muller.
This will be only Muller’s third fight at cruiserweight since moving up from light heavy, yet the South African has looked far more comfortable at the 200lbs weight limit as he approaches the most difficult fight of his career thus far.
More typically thought of as a fighter rather than a boxer, Muller is no stranger to a brawl, but his performances at the higher weight class have impressed to date, something that will not have escaped Masternak’s attention.
Masternak approaches this fight on the back of three consecutive wins since his defeat to Youri Kayembre Kalenga in June 2014, the most impressive of which was his majority decision victory over the former three-time world cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck in December last year.
This was followed by a comfortable second round stoppage of Ruben Angel Mino in Berlin six weeks ago, two performances he will look to build on this weekend.
Hailing from Wroclaw in Poland, Masternak’s fighting style is typically eastern European. His erect, stood-up stance and prominent jab, combined with thudding power, a strong chin and an ability to wrap his opponents up on the inside means he is a difficult puzzle to solve.
Far happier on the front foot as opposed to the back foot, he is a very sound technical fighter with plenty of promise. Another of Sauerland Promotion’s conveyor belt of cruiserweights, the 28 year-old has benefitted from regular quality sparring with stablemates Marco Huck, the WBO cruiserweight champion, and Yoan Pablo Hernandez, the IBF belt-holder.
Strengths and Weaknesses
A fighter with excellent conditioning, Masternak enjoys boxing on the outside with plenty of space to work into. He is most comfortable when controlling the range throughout fights and with room to breathe Masternak can produce some fine flurries and throws plenty of eye-catching shots.
It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest though that in the past these have tended to be very one-paced, yet Masternak appears to be someone keen to learn from his mistakes. His efforts to move through the gears more when pressing the action have been noticeable in recent outings, particularly against Mormeck.
His considered and conservative approach has hindered him in the past, though his commitment to attack stood out against the Frenchman, and the accuracy and variation of his work was more befitting of someone of clear world title potential.
Masternak still has his weaknesses, though in reality the 28 year-old has in the past been his own worst enemy. His two defeats, a 2013 loss to Grigory Drozd for the European title and the defeat to Kalenga, were contests in which his performances failed to match his previous high standards.
His failure to effectively establish his jab throughout those two losses meant he spent much of his time on the back foot, something not conducive to Masternak getting his best work done.
His defence is generally good, and was much improved against Mormeck, yet the Pole has a tendency to drop his left hand a little low, making him vulnerable to the over-hand right, a weakness neither Kalenga nor Drozd failed to exploit.
Masternak’s lateral movement is not a natural strength and remains one area where improvement is perhaps required. Preferring instead to plant his feet, the Pole was outworked by Drozd during their bout in Moscow, someone who is naturally light on his feet for a heavy man.
Whilst Masternak’s ring generalship tends to be very good, the Pole likes to dictate proceedings from centre ring, his ability to cut the ring off and out-maneuver his opponents may need to improve as he approaches world title contention.
This should certainly be a fight Masternak will not have entirely his own way and he travels to South Africa without head trainer Ulli Wegner. The 73 year-old will remain in Germany as he continues to prepare super-middleweight Arthur Abraham for his WBO mandatory defence against Robert Stieglitz on July 18th.
Masternak will therefore be joined in the ring by co-trainer Georg Bramowski. Nonetheless hopes are high among the Sauerland camp ahead of this bout and promoter Nisse Sauerland is predicting an exciting contest.
Speaking last month in the build-up to this fight Sauerland said, ‘This fight guarantees excitement. Both men want a shot at the world title and neither can afford to lose. Mateusz is in the best form of his life….and I’ve never seen him hungrier or more focused.”
For his part Muller, nicknamed ‘The Hurricane’, is more than aware of the significance a win on Saturday could have on his career and has reportedly been training extremely well.
A place amongst the top table of the cruiserweight division is the prize on offer to the South African, all the sweeter if he could claim the biggest win of his career to date in front of his own fans.
Victory for Masternak should further his claim for world title contention over the course of the next 12 months and the Pole has been full of confidence during the pre-fight build up.
Defeat on the other hand would mean a serious tapering of those aspirations. This is a fight, on paper at least, that Masternak should win and he is rightly favoured to do so. Though more accurately it is a fight he dare not lose.
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