Biggest Fight of 2020
2020 was a sad and peculiar year in many ways. For a large portion of the year, COVID-19 ground almost live sport to an abrupt halt. The ramifications on boxing were significant with fights cancelled or delayed left, right and centre.
Some noteworthy contests did manage to happen, the most significant of which in the light division is undoubtably Teofimo Lopez’s surprise victory over Vasyl Lomachenko. Lopez was a heavy underdog going into the bout, not fancied by almost anyone, standing but a puncher’s chance. And yet,Lopez succeeded in shocking the world by out boxing Loma and derailing the then universally accepted pound-for-pound number one.
It was a close fight, in which Lopez built a comfy lead in the first half of the fight. He faded late on as ‘The Matrix’ came back into it. I felt the fight was very much in the balance coming into the final round. Lopez won the last innings clearly.
The Brooklyn native was announced the winner by unanimous decision, with scorecards of 119–109, 117–111, and 116–112.The cards were painfully lopsided and do a disservice to the great Loma. However, Lopez was the worthy winner, despite the Ukrainian’s bizarre claims of a robbery after the fight.
In the days after the fight, the scores served as a sad distraction from Lopez’s coronation as the king of the lightweight division. He has since received the accolades such an achievement deserves. The American was named “TheRing Magazine’s Co-Fighter of the Year” and won “The Ring Magazine Upset of the Year” in addition.
Loma was the man to beat. It was hard to envisage anyone having the ability required to topple him. However, ‘The Takeover’ Lopez did something only he and his father believed possible, and became the undisputed lightweight king, and etching his name into boxing history forever.
Overview of Division
The lightweight division is certainly the most intriguing of all the weight classes. 23-year-old Teofimo Lopez is unarguably the top dog in the division, possessing all the major belts andthe pathetic WBC ‘Franchise Title’ which should be the full title. Lopez has reportedly agreed to fight his IBF mandatory, Australian George Kambosos Jnr, who beat Lee Selby back in October.
If he beats Kambosos, Lopez has several options. He could rematch Loma, who certainly would deserve a rematch after his impressive run at the helm of the division. He could elect to fight Devin Haney to solidify his status as the undisputedking, even though he is, however the farcical WBC wish to dress it up with their numerous titles.
2021 got off to a promising start with the spectacle that was Garcia vs Campbell. Ryan Garcia emerged victorious thanks to a sickening body shot. The young Californian Garcia silenced his critics who had labelled him an Instagram boxer. ‘King Ryan’ proved his heart in rising from the canvas after being heavily dropped by Campbell.
Garcia looks set to face off against Floyd Mayweather Jr’s protegee, Gervonta Davis, with a contest apparently agreed. A fight between the two has long been mooted, although many until now doubted whether Garcia was truly serious about taking it. It appears he is. He will need to demonstrate animpregnable defence against the granite-fisted Davis, but one must applaud his cojones in agreeing to take on ‘Tank’.
Devin Haney returned from shoulder surgery in November after a year out, and easily outpointed Yurkis Gamboa. He will hope to secure a marquee fight against one of the other four lions in the division, with Lomachenko a logical choice if Lopez’s hands are tied with Kambosos.
Top 3 in Division
1. Teofimo Lopez 16-0-0
Lopez is the undisputed king of the division. There can be no doubt. He beat Loma and merits the approbation that accompanies such a victory. Whether it was an off night for Loma remains to be seen. Have the decades of training camps since being an infant taking their toll on the 32-year old Lomachenko, or is Lopez just a very special fighter? I’d hazard a guess at a little of each. He can box terrifically, and he can punch fantastically hard. I look forward to seeing what 2021 has in store for him.
2. Vasyl Lomachenko 14-2-0
Before his loss to Lopez, Loma ruled the lightweight division. He’s small for a lightweight, and that has caused him a few issues in his fights with Linares, Pedraza and Campbell. Although he worked out his range and won each easily, the fear was if he ran into someone who was bigger, had serious power and could box. Lopez has all three. Loma now has a decision to make. He could decide to go back down in weight and try and rule at featherweight or super-featherweight. His other option is to try and reclaim his titles. I believe he warrants the opportunity to do so, but whether Lopez will stick around at 135lbs, remains to be seen.
3. Gervonta Davis 24-0-0
Davis could well be number two, however, at lightweight he is yet to beat a marquee name. He hasn’t put a glove wrong in any of his twenty-four fights thus far and has looked scarilydestructive and powerful in each of his outings thus far. He could well be the best of the lot, but on occasion his discipline has let him down. He has missed weight several times and been embroiled in controversy out of the ring. One would hope that that is behind him, and we can finally see whether ‘Tank’ can follow in Floyd’s prestigious footsteps.
Honourable mentions must be given to 22-year olds Ryan Garcia (21-0-0) and Devin Haney (25-0-0). The former amateur rivals each possess a piece of the fragmented WBC titles, and will certainly fight each other at some point. Six months ago, most would have favoured Haney in a bout between the two. However, Garcia’s awesome stoppage of a world-class Luke Campbell seems to tip the scales in the other way. Much will be learnt in the coming months, but currently, the two young Americans occupy fourth and fifth spot in the divisional rankings.
Garcia vs Davis
With the bout seemingly already agreed, you must admire the self-confidence of Ryan Garcia in electing to take on ‘Tank’. One would hope all the hype is not just smoke and mirrors, and we can see both young men test themselves against another young hungry contender.
Lopez vs Loma II
As mentioned, I’d like to see Loma given a chance to right his wrongs in the first fight. I want to know if Lopez is really what he appears to be, and what Loma has left. Is it a changing of the guard, or was it just that Loma finally run into someone truly better than he? A second fight would serve as a good indicator.
Haney vs Lopez
If Lopez cannot rematch Loma, I’d like to see Haney face off with Teofimo Lopez at some point. Lopez is very much the man in demand at the peak of the division. Out of all the other top five, Haney has the most to prove at this point. By challenging another the top dog for the undisputed status would be a real sign of intent.
In reality, as long as the top five fight each other this year, I’ll be happy, whichever pairings are constructed. This generation of lightweights are immensely talented. Their apparent willingness to fight each other is reassuring that we are entering a phase of boxing where the best really does fight the best. I sincerely hope we see these talented fighters face each other before some move up in weight.
One to Look out for
Despite their young ages, Lopez, Haney and Garcia cannot be thought of as prospects. They are fully-fledged elite fighters, despite their youth.
The dark horse of the division is James Tennyson. Although he is not ready to face the top five, he has been really exciting as of late. He is still only 26, but really looks to have found his feet at 135lbs. He is experienced, and if he can beat some fringe world level opposition, or former champions who may be a bit past their best, like Jorge Linares, he could quite realistically challenge for a world title by the end of the year.
Although I do not believe Tennyson would pose a threat to Davis like Johnny Nelson, the Belfast man can really wallop. He’s a ferocious finisher and keeps improving each performance. It is only a matter of time before the likes of Lopez and Haney move to 140lbs. When they do, I think Tennyson can prove a major player in the lightweight divisionand stake a genuine claim for a world title.
By Aaron Ludford