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Thursday, Jan 24 2013 10:12 PM

Dallas Jr. to face toughest opponent yet in Vegas bout

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    By Rod Thornburg/ Special to the Californian

    Boxer Michael Dallas and his son Michael Dallas Jr. pose just after a training session and workout at PAL in this file photo.

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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer mgriffith@bakersfield.com

When opportunity comes knocking in the world of boxing, it's hard not to open the door.

Even if the person standing in that door is one of the hardest punchers in the super lightweight boxing ranks.

Saturday night, Michael Dallas Jr. of Bakersfield will face the toughest foe yet in his professional boxing career when he squares off against highly-touted power-puncher Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in the WBC Interim Super Lightweight World Championship 12-round bout.

The fight takes place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and will be aired on Showtime starting at 7 p.m.

Dallas wasn't supposed to be in this position, but when Hank Lundy pulled out of the fight in late December, Dallas was more than ready to take his spot on short notice.

"I was glad to take the opportunity," said Dallas (19-2-1 with eight knockouts). "It's my biggest fight and my biggest opportunity and I gotta capitalize."

Had he not already been training, the timing might not have been right.

But Dallas trained for a planned 12-round fight Dec. 7 that fell though when his opponent was injured a week before the fight.

"I came home for a couple of weeks when the fight fell through, then came back here to Hayward with (trainer Virgil Hunter) and got right back to work, so it's not like I've been off much. I was in pretty good shape already."

But no matter what type of shape he's in, Dallas has never faced an opponent as of Matthysse's caliber. Matthysse has amassed a 32-2-0 record with 30 knockouts.

Oddsmakers have made Matthysse, 30, a heavy favorite. His last loss, a controversial split decision, was five fights ago. Matthysse has won his last four fights by knockout, technical knockout or referee technical decision, which happens when an opponent or his corner says "no mas."

Dallas, 26, is respectful of Matthysse's power, but not in awe.

"He's a tough guy, a big puncher," Dallas said. "I've just got to box and stay smart. I'm longer and taller and I need to use my reach."

Dallas, under the tutelage of his later father, Michael Sr., raced out to a 17-0-1 pro record before suffering a seventh-round knockout loss to Josesito Lopez on Jan, 28, 2011. Five months later Dallas suffered a 10-round split decision loss to Mauricio Herrera.

"I won that second fight in '11, but the decision didn't go my way," said Dallas, adding that he used both of those fights as learning experiences and motivational tools.

"I just went hard in the gym," he said of how he responded to the losses. Those losses made me hungry as a fighter. I just had to keep pushing and I got both wins in '12."

He also listened to Hunter, named the Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year for 2011. Dallas joined Hunter’s stable of fighters after the loss to Lopez.

“I learned a lot from my dad but (Hunter has taught me to be more physical, think more and add a little inside game,” Dallas said. “He’s made me more confident. Camp has been tough but good.”

Dallas said he’s clearly focused on the fight, but when he steps into the ring Saturday night, his corner won’t be the same.

His father died Nov. 14 after a seven-month battle with leukemia.

“It was hard; it’s still hard,” he said of his father’s death. “My dad was my trainer, my best friend to me. This is my first fight with him not in the corner and I feel like I have to push harder to get this for him. We dreamed of getting a world title together and it’s time to get it.”

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