Boxing

Teofimo Lopez is unified champion in an exciting new era for the lightweight division

Teofimo Lopez is the new lightweight king, but Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Luke Campbell are jostling for position in a stellar crop at 135lbs.

‘Golden Era’ is only used to describe a few weight divisions. The heavyweights of the 1970s could definitely receive that esteemed description. Boxers such as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier all spent time as world champion while tremendous fighters such as Ken Norton never even earnt full world honours.

It may have spilt into more than one weight division, but the 1980s would be another. The four kings of Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns all fought each other in some of the most memorable fights of the 20th century.

It could be the case that we are on the cusp of a similar era at lightweight, a division that’s had some tremendous champions over the years. But many of them simply use the division as a springboard to win titles in heavier weight classes.

Duran did just that whilst Manny Pacquaio only had one title fight at lightweight while becoming an eight-weight world champion. Floyd Mayweather only spent a year fighting in the division as he compiled his perfect resume.

For four of the current leading talents at lightweight, providing they do not outgrow the weight limit, there could be little reason for them to look for bigger money fights in the higher divisions. This is a generation of talent that have astonishing amateur pedigree, marketability, entertaining styles, are similar in age and have extremely engaging personalities.

Teofimo Lopez recently earned his status as the new No 1 by defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko. It remains to be seen whether injury played a part in Lomachenko’s performance but nothing should be taken away from what Lopez displayed.

He was given a puncher’s chance after the way he ripped the IBF title away from the respected Richard Commey in 2019. However, he went on to out-box Lomachenko for large amounts of the fight, something most observers considered impossible.

The 23-year-old born in New York currently holds a 16-0 fight record with 12 knockouts. This is fewer fights compared to those listed below but he has the most impressive victory. He has a long career ahead of him and there are many creditable candidates looking to grab his WBA, IBF and WBO titles.

One of those is Devin Haney. The 21-year-old currently residing in Las Vegas has already compiled a 25-0 record and holds the WBC version of the lightweight title.

He turned professional at just 17 after building an amateur record of 138-8. While he does not have a name like Lomachenko on his record, the way he recently controlled Yuriorkis Gamboa over the distance shows he has an impressive skill set. Haney seems sure to have big fights further down the line. Could we be in line for a Lopez versus Haney fight for undisputed status?

The most divisive fighter on this list of leading lightweights is Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis. The outspoken boxer promoted by Floyd Mayweather is 26-years-old and is from Maryland. The shortest on the list at 5ft 6, he was a top amateur who turned over with 206-15 record.

He is unbeaten in 24 fights as a professional with a phenomenal 23 wins being achieved via knockout. He holds a fearsome reputation as a one-punch knockout artist and produced a dramatic stoppage of Leo Santa Cruz, earning the WBA regular title in his last fight.

Prior to fighting Santa Cruz, Davis knocked out Haney victim Gamboa in the 12th round. Haney looked more comfortable with the Cuban, but failed to stop him inside the distance like Davis, sparking fiery recent exchanges between the rivals on social media.

The final name on the list is the least proven. Ryan Garcia was set to fight Britain’s Luke Campbell but that fight has been delayed due to Campbell testing positive for Covid-19.

The Californian is 22-years-old, tall for a lightweight at 5ft 10, some two inches taller than any of the boxers listed above. His perfect record of 20-0 includes 17 knockouts but he does not have the same calibre of name on his record compared to the others.

Garcia does have a phenomenal amateur record of 215-15 which proves his pedigree. He is facing the toughest fight of his career against Campbell, but victory could propel him towards showdown with one of his American rivals.

Lomachenko’s return should not be ruled out, neither Campbell. But they are both are well into their 30s and the future of the lightweight division seems to lay in the United States.

Watch Conor Benn vs Sebastian Formella on Saturday, from 7pm on Sky Sports.

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