On June 4 in Melbourne, Australia, George Kambosos Jr. and Devin Haney will fight for the undisputed lightweight title.
But no matter who wins, the identity of the world’s best lightweight will be very much in dispute. Gervonta “Tank” Davis made his statement on Saturday at the Barclays Center in New York, and it was a loud, emphatic one: He knocked out Rolando Romero with a crushing counter left hand with 21 seconds remaining in the sixth round.
Now, boxing being so disorganized and next-to-impossible to follow, even folks who follow the sport closely will disagree whether the Kambosos-Haney fight is for the undisputed title or not.
Vasiliy Lomachenko won the WBC lightweight title in the ring, as well as the WBA and WBO belts. On Oct. 17, 2020, he fought Teofimo Lopez, who held the IBF title. But in the head-slapping way boxing does things, the WBC declared Lomachenko its diamond champion, whatever that is, before the fight. But in an interview with reporters days before the fight, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said the Lomachenko-Lopez winner would be the WBC champion.
Lopez won that fight, which theoretically made him the undisputed champion, but he lost to Kambosos. Haney won a version of the WBC belt and Davis won a version of the WBA belt.
The point of the quagmire is an example of why boxing is so messed up. There are now more great fights going on regularly than there have been in years between the best in the world, and we don’t even know who holds which belt and how the fighters got them.
That’s a familiar bellyache, though, but it’s an argument for another day.
The point now is that no one can call himself the true lightweight champion without going through Davis.
He has good boxing skills and crushing punching power. He pulverized Romero when he caught him with the shot, even though he said he wasn’t trying to knock Romero out with it.
“The crazy thing is, I didn’t throw it hard,” Davis said of the knockout punch. “I just threw it and he ran right into it. I didn’t throw it that hard.”
Davis, though, is the hardest puncher in the division by a long shot. He’s now 27-0 and has knocked out 25 of the 27 men he’s faced. On this night, he showed more than just power.
Romero was boxing well, but was also using his elbows. Davis, as the shorter fighter, would have done well to fight on the inside, but he would risk getting split open by one of Romero’s elbows. So Davis, instead of barreling relentlessly forward like the tank he’s named after, got on his toes and fought from the outside.
He isn’t going to remind anyone of Willie Pep or even Floyd Mayweather as a boxer, but he’s more than competent at it, and with his power, that’s far more than enough.
I had my doubts about Davis for a long time. His best performance was a star-making one, when he defeated Jose Pedraza in 2017 to win a super featherweight belt. He looked like a guy who was about to take over the sport.
But until Saturday, he never matched that level of performance. The Pedraza win, a seventh-round TKO on Jan. 14, 2017, stood as his finest work as a pro until Saturday against Romero.
He showed he is above-average at everything and great when it comes to punching. He conclusively answered any questions about his ability on Saturday.
There were plenty of question marks about Romero going in. There was little doubt he could punch, but could he take a punch? Could he box? Was he anything more than a slick-talking one-trick pony?
Romero fought a smart, disciplined fight most of the way. But in the sixth, he threw a wild right hand and it was a fatal mistake. Davis immediately countered it with a left, and Romero went down face-first into the ropes in the corner.
Romero got up, but his legs were wobbly and he wasn’t focusing. Referee David Fields correctly stopped it at 2:39 of the sixth, giving Davis his most impressive win.
Hopefully, Davis will get the opportunity to fight the Kambosos-Haney winner. That fight will be the one that really determines the identity of the world’s best lightweight. Kambosos-Haney is just a semifinal.
There had been momentum at one point before Ryan Garcia suffered mental health issues and took a break from boxing to make a fight between Davis and Garcia. But Davis has improved so much that it appears right now to be a mismatch in Davis’ favor.
Despite the goofy machinations the sanctioning bodies make with titles that make following the sport so difficult, boxing is in the midst of a spectacular year. Almost on a weekly basis now, there are great fights, and there are plenty more in the queue.
So forget about the sanctioning bodies and the idiotic games they play with their belts, because they’ll never stop.
Enjoy the great fights and the great fighters who are emerging like Davis.
Boxing is about its fighters, and Gervonta “Tank” Davis is one of its best.