A lightweight preview of 2021
The lightweight division may just house the most dynamic grouping of fighters in contemporary boxing. But for several isolated contests within other weight classes – the heavyweight unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, and pretty much anything involving Canelo Alvarez – the preeminent intrigue currently rests at the 132lbs limit.
Unenviably, it has fallen upon me to summarise and predict the yearly evolution of this particular convocation. Though not blessed with any especial precognition, and thus not able to tell you, definitively, of how the next year shall eventuate, you may feel somewhat short of change; but fear not(!), for what I may lack in prescience, I will overcompensate for in generosity, as who else is willing to sift through the arrant bullshit that is boxing politics, or bother themselves with the arbitrary whims of the various sanctioning bodies, as well as the conceited egoism of many of the practitioners. For you, dear reader, I lay myself down and offer only that*...
132lbs, you say…let’s take it by sanctioning body.
Handily, the WBA super, IBF and WBO titles are all arrayed upon one champion, Teofimo Lopez. Irregardless of how you scored the fight, in outpointing Vasyl Lomachenko – in October, last year – Lopez became, to borrow once again from lost property bin of boxing cliché, ‘the man’. Personally, I scored the fight 115-113 in Lopez's favour, but I would have equally accepted a draw. Lomachenko, himself, has stated that a draw would have been the objective, fair result, and that he was injured coming into the fight. Personally, were the two to fight again tomorrow, I would lean heavily towards Lomachenko winning, but the chances of this rematch appear (wisely, in Teofimo’s case and for his legacy) slim.
The WBO and the IBF list George Kambosos Jnr. as their mandatory number 1 contender, so it would make sense for Lopez to instead follow the Lomachenko victory by overwhelming this 27-year-old Australian. Kambosos Jnr. does boast narrow split decision wins over Lee Selby and Mickey Bey, but he is yet to demonstrate anything which would significantly inconvenience Lopez, who I predict would win by a commonplace KO.
No, the attractive fights involving Lopez traverse the WBC route and also, again, the WBA route. Devon Haney is the current WBC champion, whereas Lopez is franchise champion – yes, yes, a category as loathsome as it is superfluous. Haney is trained by Floyd Mayweather and he is interminably vocal in his desire for ‘bigger’ fights. Like his trainer, his isn’t a renowned puncher, but he does elide competent defensive ability with natural athleticism, and therefore stylistically the fight does intrigue. In perhaps a further solecistic break from journalistic etiquette, I have to admit that, as Haney is another derivative personality in the mould of brash Americana, I would personally derive satisfaction from seeing Lopez physically attack him, and I am a self-confessed Floyd Mayweather fanboy.
Regarding the WBA, Gervonta Davis is their lightweight champion, above whose status Lopez stands as super champion – ‘lolz’. With 23 KOs from 24 professional contests – including, arguably, the 2020 knockout of the year, poleaxing Leo Santa Cruz in the sixth round of their WBA lightweight and WBA super featherweight unification tight – ‘Tank’ certainly carries power. With 12 knockouts of his own, from 16 professional fights, a contest between Lopez and Davis would surely combine ego with dexterity and aggression, hopefully into one explosive conflagration. Above all, it would be the fight that I would wish to see out of this division in 2021.
Elsewhere, other names in the periphery of championship status include Ryan Garcia, fresh from his dismantling of Britain’s Luke Campbell; Isaac Cruz Gonzalez (20-1-1), Roland Romero (12-0), and Javier Fortuna (36-2-1). There is also curiosity to be found in the undecided futures of Vasyl Lomachenko, Luke Campbell, Lee Selby and Jorge Linares; and I would happily see the four of them, with the exception of Lee Selby, continuing to fight and to contest as many of the names already aforementioned.
As an aside, or perhaps light coda to this summary, and linking into the above, the WBA and WBO also list Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson in their top 10 rankings. Secondary only to wishing to see Teofimo Lopez vs Gervonta Davis, in agreement with Johnny Nelson, who stated, following Tennyson's one-round KO over untested Canadian Josh O'Reilly, that 'with that punch power, I think he’ll [Tennyson] beat Gervonta Davis now,” the other lightweight contest I would therefore like to see this year is subsequently Tennyson vs Davis, preferably at Windsor Park or the SSE Arena and from the ringside vantage point of bouncing upon Johnny Nelson's besuited knee…
I guess, if nothing else, my takeaway is that 2021could sure be a busy year for 'Tank'.
* …on typing this, the epiphenomenal consideration concurrently rasps from somewhere within the boundless limitations of consciousness, and is focused with unerring clarity on the question: ‘Why continue to do this yourself? Is it merely masochism, or a broader, misguided altruism?’ Contemplations for a different time, perhaps; though it should be noted that, and I'm paraphrasing, Wilde said that charity is always cruel in regards to the object; conversely, here, and as is customary to boxing, the relationship becomes inverted and thus charity instead acts brutishly upon the subject…