We may look back one day and have a good laugh at what we didn’t know.
It wouldn’t be the first time.
In the last year or so, the idea of a possible new fabulous foursome around lightweight fired up plenty of imaginations. It may play out to early expectations. Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, and Ryan Garcia have all held up their end so far.
The 23-year old Lopez (16-0, 12 KO) has the best credentials in the ring so far, capturing the lineal lightweight crown from Vasyl Lomachenko last year. Davis (26-0, 25 KO) has emerged as the biggest star of the bunch so far, winning three major titles at Jr. lightweight and, following a knockout of Mario Barrios last week, staking a claim to be regarded in the top ten of all three divisions from 130-140 pounds. Haney (26-0, 15 KO) recently overcame late adversity to defeat former lightweight titlist Jorge Linares and Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) came off the floor to stop sturdy Luke Campbell.
It’s a nice start.
One day, the four of them will even start fighting each other.
Time is on their side. Davis, at 26, is the oldest of the bunch. Garcia and Haney, at 22, are just past drinking age.
So what might there be to laugh about in retrospect?
The laugh might be in not seeing what was right in front of us. The future four might not be the right four at all.
Certainly some of them will be, but are we sure about all four? 24-year old Shakur Stevenson (16-0, 8 KO), a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist competing at Jr. lightweight with a featherweight belt already on the shelf, has the frame to compete at least as high as Jr. welterweight. Does anyone feel sure a foursome can develop near Stevenson’s weight that doesn’t include him?
Another candidate goes to scratch this Saturday (Showtime, 9 PM EST).
24-year old Chris Colbert (15-0, 6 KO) enters the ring this weekend off one of the better performances of his young career. Colbert battled past a game Jaime Arboleda for an eleventh round stoppage in a crowd pleasing affair. Colbert doesn’t have the knockout numbers some of his peers do but he’s got plenty of everything else.
Colbert has fast hands and feet, excellent reflexes, and the height and length to compete with any of his peers. Colbert also has the gift of gab.
Colbert caused a bit of a stir on social media this week when he commented on and took shots at heavyweight Deontay Wilder in a video interview at Fight Hype with Nestor Gibbs of Tha Boxing Voice. Regardless whether one agreed or disagreed with Colbert’s sentiments, one thing was abundantly clear.
Colbert can talk.
Eventually, that will mean talking about someone notable within 100 pounds of him for the sake of putting butts in seats. Along with physical tools, it’s not a bad attribute to have. Long term, Colbert may have as much star potential as anyone near his weight.
This weekend, Colbert also has a dance partner to tell us more about his fistic substance.
Colbert was originally slated for one of boxing’s more mundane rituals, a comparison shopping match with a faded veteran in the form of Yuriorkis Gamboa. The 39-year old Gamboa hasn’t had a truly notable win in years and wasn’t expected to win here. The assumed point, viscerally, was for viewers to be able to compare Colbert’s performance to the outings Davis and Haney had against Gamboa.
Gamboa went rounds with both, leaving neither with a banner night. If Colbert had outperformed them, stylistically or in terms of the length of the contest, Colbert would have had something to talk about while looking for bigger game. It’s all quite predictable but part of the process everyone goes through.
A Gamboa training injury appears to have resulted in an upgrade. It’s still comparison shopping, but of a more dangerous variety.
Two fights ago, 29-year old Tugstogy Nyambayar (12-1, 9 KO) lost a clear but respectable decision to the excellent WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. The 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist is tough, experienced, and has enough pop to be a real threat this weekend. If Colbert can follow his performance against Arboleda with a similar night against Nyambayar, the intrigue around his weight class, give or take a division or two, only increases.
This is an opportunity for Colbert to remind everyone that this new generation has yet to truly unfold. It hasn’t really even started yet.
The desire to think we’re seeing history unfold, to lend hasty significance to stories still being told, might be more intense in this constant content era than ever. Boxing has had several notable multi-man rivalries but they developed in real time. The best of the last decade has occurred in a (to-date) ten-fight rivalry between Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Sriksaket Sor Rungvisai, and Carlos Cuadras.
The first fight between them, Gonzalez-Estrada, took place in 2012. Eight of them have taken place since September 2016 and it wasn’t really a fully realized foursome until 2018. When the first fight took place at Jr. flyweight, it would have been impossible to predict what would happen two divisions higher half a decade later.
It’s not impossible to pick out the brightest shining young lights around lightweight right now, but we don’t know what we don’t know about the finish line.
Maybe everyone has the right four picked out.
Maybe Lomachenko defeats Lopez in a rematch to reset the game board for at least a little while.
Or maybe a decade from now, we will all have been treated to a sensational six.
Not knowing is part of the fun.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.