A pair of former champions highlighted the weekend, both picking up their second win in a row since a loss to a younger tiger in the sports ranks, both with an eye on more glory ahead. While one is closer to his prime than the other, both remain near the top of their divisions.
The most interesting story in boxing over the last three weeks has been the action at lightweight. Four critical fights have concluded and all the winners impressed in different ways. George Kambosos was ultimately the most impressive, entering as a big underdog against lightweight king Teofimo Lopez and trading knockdowns en route to victory. Devin Haney continued his progressions against an established veteran, Gervonta Davis held off a motivated threat in a fight where his power didn’t make the difference, and Vasyl Lomachenko nearly shut out an established contender.
Now the fun begins. With his win over Richard Commey, Vasyl Lomachenko made his case for a shot at Kambosos. Lomachenko nearly stopped Commey but arguably lost valuable seconds telling Commey’s corner to stop the fight when he could have taken care of it himself. Lomachenko couldn’t create the opportunity again but held serve down the stretch and was never really threatened.
Futures: Lomachenko is now 6-1 against fighters ranked in the top ten at lightweight by TBRB and Ring Magazine with two of those wins coming since Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez. Lomachenko will be the WBO’s lead contender. Haney has won two straight against similarly ranked contenders and there is the inherent conflict over the WBC title at play. Davis has won three in a row against fighters ranked from featherweight to Jr. welterweight and holds the WBA’s sub-belt at lightweight. In other words, all have a merit case to be the first to challenge Kambosos. Kambosos won at a perfect moment.
The immediate future isn’t in the ring at lightweight. It’s all about who offers the best deal so the negotiating table is where the real fight will commence. Anyone who declares there is a right answer for who should face Kambosos next is tipping their hand about who they like best. There is no wrong answer here. There’s just a bottom line.
Matters are simpler at bantamweight.
Donaire Has a Goal in Mind
Nonito Donaire’s best fighting weight is 118 lbs. Had he stayed there all along, he might be spoken of in the same air as Eder Jofre and Ruben Olivares historically. The only man to defeat him at the weight, Naoya Inoue, may ultimately assume such a lofty position.
Donaire wants to see him again first.
After a knockout of Reymart Gaballo, Donaire made clear he wants the rematch and wants a chance to be undisputed at bantamweight before he’s done. Showtime seemed on air to be nudging Donaire back toward John Riel Casimero. Casimero’s status is up in the air as WBO titlist with the sanctioning organization reportedly asking for evidence that gastritis scuttled Saturday’s defense against Paul Butler.
Futures: We can’t really talk about what’s ahead until after Tuesday. Inoue has a defense against Aran Dipaen. Japan’s “Monster” is expected to win but lots of unexpected things have happened in 2021. Assuming Inoue does win, he has made clear he wants all the belts. To get them, a Donaire rematch has to happen. Based on the way the division is widely ranked, belt or not, the next most significant fight is Casimero for either man. There is already buzz about what a move to Jr. featherweight would look like for Inoue. Donaire stopping the buzz in its tracks might not be the most likely outcome, but the old man still has the punch to shatter any dreams.
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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.