Week two of the unofficial three week lightweight showcase is in the books and this division is on fire. There will be observers still concerned with the fights that have not happened at lightweight, yet, but the fights we are getting are more than enough.
They also show we might not really know what to ask for yet.
The big ticket seller did nothing to hamper his growing fan base. Gervonta Davis is compelling television and it turned out Isaac Cruz was ready for this moment. Cruz gave Davis a real night’s work, leaving Davis to need a crafty twelfth to close the show. It was a fight that tested the toughness of both men and enhanced Cruz. Issac Cruz made lightweight even better in defeat because he exhibited how deep this class is right now.
We’re still at the relative beginning of this ride. The next three-five years will be fun. Where does Davis go now?
Futures: Cruz created options for the future. He’s not invincible but he can take it, brings it all night, and has a style that is just must-see TV. Get him a few more wins and he can be right back in the title mix when, inevitably, belts start freeing up again.
In a perfect world, Davis uses his access to the pay-per-view market and ability to sell tickets to force his way past everyone to get the first shot at George Kambosos. Depending on how severely Davis’s left was hurt, perfect world could meet medical timetables. Assuming he’s back in the next four or five months, Kambosos is the best option.
For all his success and fanfare, Davis has yet to win a fight that makes him the definitive division leader in any weight class. Kambosos is in that position after his win over Teofimo Lopez. Who the best fighter in the class is can always be a debate. The one with the most belts, lineal recognition, is obvious.
Ryan Garcia, absent for most of 2021, was chirping on Twitter after the fight and that would also be a very sellable contest for Davis. Davis has shown he can bring the fans and he’s getting on a roll against serious foes. 2022 could see him elevate even further with the right fights if he keeps winning.
Davis wasn’t the only young lightweight in action this weekend.
Haney Handles His End
Devin Haney is waiting for a chance to show the world how good he might be. Nothing hurt those chances on Saturday as he won a solid decision over Joseph Diaz on Saturday. Haney weathered some good surges from Diaz to win eight or nine rounds (according to the official scores and the eyes from this corner). It was the sort of win that could pay dividends in the long run for Haney. Rounds with skilled veterans who can go matter. Haney is making his progression steps.
Futures: Haney is an evident, highly skilled talent but it feels like he’s still in between what he is and will be, for better or worse. It’s hard to say which yet. Haney has stretches in his last two fights where he has boxed beautifully against Jorge Linares and now Joseph Diaz but he also has lulls where he gets caught, seems to get disoriented, and stays in that fog for what would be a dangerous stretch against guys with more singular concussive power at his weight. Haney made clear he wants Kambosos, perhaps even with a stamp on his passport. The Kambosos bidding war is going to be one of the most interesting stories of early 2022, but it likely doesn’t really commence until the results are in from next weekend’s Vasyl Lomachenko-Richard Commey contest.
For Diaz, it was a tough loss. Diaz is a well-rounded, well-schooled fighter who will always carry the question of what he might do with just a little more power. With a competitive defeat, he remains in the mix at lightweight and would be a good choice whenever Ryan Garcia is ready to resume his career.
Light heavyweight Anthony Yarde is a clear physical talent and a fun fighter to watch. There is serious power there and Saturday Yarde made right a listless loss to Lyndon Arthur last year in explosive fashion. Yarde’s only other loss, where he gave some good work to veteran Sergey Kovalev in Yarde’s only title shot,
Futures: Questions about how far Yarde might go with a more orthodox trainer will always follow him, but are mostly wasted. Arthur was the WBO’s number one contender. Joe Smith Jr. has that belt and appears to be the most vulnerable of the light heavyweight titlists right now. At the least, we know Smith was barely competitive with WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol. If Yarde could get a shot at Smith in 2022, that would be a win for him and fight fans. That’s a fun fight. Yarde could also always have a rubber match with Arthur to complete their series though it wouldn’t seem the best direction for progress.
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.