A critical look at the past week in boxing
I don’t want to be too hard on the 140-pound titleholder, who was fortunate to emerge with a unanimous decision victory over Jamaime Ortiz on Thursday in Las Vegas. When an opponent as skillful and athletic as Ortiz doesn’t want to take punches, it’s difficult to hit the bullseye. The great Vasiliy Lomachenko landed only 21.9% of his punches in his victory over Ortiz in 2022, according to CompuBox. Lopez landed 21.4% of his shots. That being said, Lomachenko landed more punches than Lopez did against Ortiz – 125 to 78 – because he did a better job of making adjustments. Lopez never figured out how to corner Ortiz (17-2-1, 8 KOs), taking the final three rounds on all three cards as a result of sheer aggression to pull out the victory. I won’t say that Lopez (20-1, 13 KOs) squandered the momentum he built with his sensational victory over Josh Taylor last June – everyone has a bad night – but elite fighters find a way to neutralize anything their opponents throw at them. Lopez didn’t do that, meaning he still has work to do if he hopes to become one of the best of his generation. For the record: Yes, Lopez outpointed Lomachenko in 2020 – and he deserved the decision – but Lomachenko fought with an injured shoulder, on which he had surgery days later.
Giving up marijuana evidently has done Davis good. The 2021 Olympic silver medalist and 135-pound contender couldn’t have looked much better than he did against veteran Jose Pedraza on the Lopez-Ortiz card, stopping the former two-division titleholder in the sixth round. Davis’ combination of fundamental skills and God-given gifts – particularly his hand speed – could make him a truly special fighter, as Pedraza learned the hard way. The Puerto Rican was overwhelmed from the outset. Pedraza is 34 years old and now 0-3-1 in his last four fights, which must be considered Davis’ performance is assessed. Still, Pedraza (29-6-1, 14 KOs) is a capable, seasoned opponent. And Davis (10-0, 7 KOs) blew him away. The victory followed a no-contest against Nahir Albright in October, the result of testing positive for marijuana. Davis said he gave up the recreational drug to focus on boxing, which paid dividends Thursday. He might crack the Top 5 of one or more sanctioning bodies after his big night, meaning he took another step toward his first title shot. It seems to me that we must now mention his name when we discuss the top 135-pounders.
BIGGEST WINNER II
The 6-foot-3 middleweight contender from England also faced the biggest test of his career, a scheduled 12-rounder against veteran Liam Williams on Saturday night in London. And Sheeraz earned an “A” grade. He fought behind his long, punishing left jab to put Williams down twice and stop him inside of one full round, a sensational result that stamps him a genuine 160-pound title contender. I was impressed with his skillset and poise at 24, as well as his punching power. He attacked his more experienced opponent in an intelligent, methodical yet vicious manner and simply destroyed him, which no one else has been able to do. The only time Williams (25-5-1, 20 KOs) failed to go the distance was a technical knockout against Liam Smith, which was the result of a cut. Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) had a special night. He has called out Chris Eubank Jr., Smith and popular Nathan Heaney. I believe he has the ability and demeanor to compete on the same level as those potential opponents and possibly any one else in and around his division. He’s definitely one to watch.
Haney vs. Garcia
Devin is getting pimped by his dad the pimp sad to see. 4-20 he will be crying begging please have mercy. Save your son bill. pic.twitter.com/BnUMhORclP
— RYAN GARCIA (@RyanGarcia) February 10, 2024
News item: 140-pound titleholder Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) and contender Ryan Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) have agreed to meet on pay-per-view April 20. No site has been announced. The fight makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, primarily because of Haney’s success and Garcia’s massive following on social media. The fight will sell. But is it a good matchup from a boxing standpoint? I would rather see Haney fight Gervonta Davis or Shakur Stevenson, both of whom are as talented as he is, but Haney-Garcia could be more competitive than some might believe. Haney is one of the best technicians in the sport. He’ll probably outbox Garcia and win a clear decision. However, the champion is a better matchup for Garcia than Davis was for at least two reasons: One, Garcia won’t have to suffer to make weight, as he reportedly did when he fought Davis at 136 pounds. And, two, Haney doesn’t have the punching power of Davis, who stopped Garcia with a body shot. Garcia, who split six fights with Haney as an amateur, also is a good boxer, quick handed, a big puncher and now has experience in a superfight. I’m picking Haney to win but I wouldn’t count out Garcia.
News item II: Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) will fight fellow former titleholder George Kambosos Jr. (21-2, 10 KOs) for the vacant IBF 135-pound title on May 12 in Australia. It’s hard to believe but the boxing wizard hasn’t held a major title since October 2020, when he lost his lightweight titles to Lopez. He won his next three fights but then lost a disputed decision to then-undisputed champion Haney a year ago. I don’t think Kambosos has the skill set to beat Lomachenko, even a 35-year-old version. That means the future Hall of Famer will have a belt around his waist one more time, which seems appropriate. … Former amateur star Abdullah Mason (12-0, 10 KOs) from Cleveland is living up to the hype so far. The 19-year-old southpaw was at it again on the Lopez-Ortiz card, stopping previously unbeaten Benjamin Gurment (8-1-3, 5 KOs) with a massive left hand in the second round of a scheduled eight-round 135-pound bout. Check out the punch here. Mason seems to have elite tools.