SEEMINGLY overnight, lightweight has become one of the hottest divisions in the sport. To be clear, this isn’t necessarily in terms of talent or accomplishments, but rather the marketability of fights that can be made there.
On DAZN, social media heartthrob Ryan Garcia got off the deck to stop Luke Campbell, answering numerous questions over his fighting prowess in the process. For plenty of observers, his victory seemed to remove the final doubt holding the floodgates closed; now, we apparently have a quartet of star lightweights who could all fight each other and save boxing – Garcia, Gervonta Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney. At least, that’s the view of some broadcasters and pundits.
During the broadcast on DAZN, you could be forgiven for thinking Garcia is the next coming of Sugar Ray Leonard. Mainly because the commentary team quite literally said this, more than once. Chris Mannix – who, in his podcast to preview the fight, called Garcia “the most important fighter of the century” – was barely comprehensible in his praise of the 22-year-old.
Alongside Mannix, Sergio Mora spent several rounds praising Garcia for getting off the canvas rather than paying any attention to the stellar work Campbell was producing, particularly the left hand that decked Garcia in the first place.
Part of a broadcast team’s job is to help promote fighters tied to that broadcaster, but a more important part of their role is to call fights fairly. Sky Sports are regularly bashed for their apparently ‘biased’ commentary, but it’s never anything like what we saw on DAZN during Garcia-Campbell. Sky commentary, much like that on other major channels like BT Sport and ESPN, also provides insightful analysis of the boxing taking place. Such discussion was absent on DAZN.
After the biggest win of his career to date, Garcia played a smart move by directly calling out Davis, who recently moved to 135lbs by wrecking Leo Santa Cruz. Garcia understands that today’s boxing audience won’t settle for platitudes; once a fight is over, their attention immediately turns to what’s next. What’s strange is that Garcia’s win over Campbell made him a mandatory challenger to Haney, who he seems less interested in fighting at the moment.
Following Garcia’s win, several podcasters stressed the importance of these four lightweights all fighting each other. The Fight Disciples and Morning Kombat both made the comparison to boxing’s ‘Four Kings’ – Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns – who transcended the sport by facing each other in historic fights.
Neither podcast was directly comparing the current lightweights to these all-time greats in terms of skill, though they were making the point that their fights with each other could impact the sport in a similar way if they were to happen.
What’s notable is that the Four Kings were all vastly more established than these current lightweights when they first started facing each other. Indeed, only Lopez and Davis have dethroned a world champion to claim a title. They are the only two to have proven themselves at an elite level, though Lopez’ win over Vasiliy Lomachenko clearly outshines the accomplishments of any of his contemporaries.
The fame and appeal of these four has largely grown online rather than anywhere else, particularly in the case of Garcia who commands an enormous social media following.
This was aptly captured on a recent episode of Mike Tyson’s Hotboxin’ podcast, in which Garcia sat alongside actor Jeremy Piven to discuss his win over Campbell and his next steps. Halfway through the show, someone instigated a video call with Davis on their phone, prompting him and Garcia to yell at each other for a few minutes while Tyson jigged around in glee. It was just the sort of viral clip that is excitedly gobbled up on social media.
All four lightweights were tracked down for interviews with the likes of SiriusXM, TMZ and Ellie Seckbach. Lopez fighting Davis and Garcia fighting Haney seems like a logical starting point, however Garcia is clearly gunning for Davis, telling TMZ he would stop him inside two rounds.
However he also told SiriusXM that he will retire at 26, saying, “I’m gonna move on to inspire people in a different way and to play my part in this battle against hate and confusion in America.” If his boxing career continues on its current trajectory, retiring at 26 seems unlikely.
Lopez told Seckbach that he’s likely to face mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jnr next, which could leave Haney in the lurch for the time being.
What’s clear is that Lopez – clearly number one at the weight – is not being overtly pursued by any of his three rivals.
Indeed, Lomachenko has also become the forgotten man of the division. Not only is he not mentioned by any of these four, but the Ukrainian phenom has also not been discussed in the media with regards to the current lightweight division. His loss to Lopez was surprising, but it does not completely remove him as a key player at 135lbs. He would surely be favourite over all four, besides perhaps Lopez.
Anthony Joshua caused a stir when he told Sky Sports that he is likely to retire in five years.
“This isn’t the start of my career. I’m coming towards the end of my career. Five years left, that’s basically an Olympic cycle. I’ve got an Olympic cycle and a little bit more left,” he said.
Some thought he was playing mind games with rival Tyson Fury, others saw it as a sign of weakness that he’s thinking about retirement, but it looks much more like a wildly successful fighter having a clear exit strategy out of a notoriously unforgiving sport. That’s just smart.