Why boxing is in a golden era despite frustrating match-making

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Vasyl Lomachenko poses on Saturday as he celebrates winning his lightweight title fight vs. Luke Campbell in London. (Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)
Vasyl Lomachenko poses on Saturday as he celebrates winning his lightweight title fight vs. Luke Campbell in London. (Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)

There’s a lot to love about boxing these days, which kind of gets lost in all the bashing about what there is to hate about boxing.

When you cut through the inane arguments between promoters about the quality of the various broadcast outlets, and the fights that aren’t made, you might notice we’re in something of a golden era.

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It’s been at least 20 years, and maybe more, since there was the kind of depth of talent that exists in the sport now. It begins at the top and goes down to the lightest of weight classes.

There is more boxing on television or being streamed than there ever has been, and there is consistently better fights being broadcast since the 1980s when HBO was in its heyday.

Not long after Vasiliy Lomachenko bested Luke Campbell in a compelling lightweight title fight, I tweeted that I was content with my choice of WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, and not Lomachenko, as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

There was a good debate that ensued, and any number of fighters were mentioned as being candidates for being No. 1 in the world.

Lomachenko, as ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Joe Tessitore said repeatedly during Saturday’s broadcast, has a strong argument to be No. 1.

Canelo Alvarez is fourth on my list, but the middleweight and super middleweight title-holder has the résumé against big-time competition to be first. Oleksandr Usyk is unbeaten, unified the cruiserweight belts, is 16-0 with 12 knockouts and also has a case to make that he’s No. 1.

So, too, does “The Monster,” bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue, who is little more than a wrecking machine. He is 18-0 with 16 knockouts and could be boxing’s hardest puncher pound-for-pound.

On and on it goes. Gennadiy Golovkin went 0-1-1 in a pair of hotly disputed decisions against Alvarez, but if those fights went his way, as each of them could have, he’d be unbeaten and he’d be No. 1.

Manny Pacquiao fans were arguing the Filipino senator is the best in the world after he beat Keith Thurman in July, and while No. 1 at this point is high for him, he’s clearly one of the 10 best in the world.

Even with all the fights that aren’t made that fans want to see — Alvarez-Golovkin III, Deontay Wilder-Anthony Joshua, Gervonta Davis-Tevin Farmer and Crawford-Spence chief among them — there are a slew of outstanding fights upcoming.

The finals of the World Boxing Super Series’ super lightweight tournament on Oct. 26 in London should produce fireworks between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor. The welterweight unification on Sept. 28 between Spence and Shawn Porter is going to be a bruising affair.

There will be a rematch between Andy Ruiz and Joshua for the heavyweight title, and Wilder has already signed to fight Tyson Fury, though that won’t happen until next year.

There are great young fighters on the rise who haven’t made their mark yet against elite competition, but look as if they’ll be stars. Devin Haney tweeted on Saturday that he believes he can beat Lomachenko now, and while few would agree with him, few would disagree that he has the kind of talent that will put him on the pound-for-pound list someday.

Teofimo Lopez has that kind of talent and the magnetic, charismatic personality to do that so long as he can overcome the family problems that have plagued him recently.

The heavyweights are better than they’ve been in years. The cruiserweights have gained some relevance. The light heavyweights might be at their best since the 1970s.

If Inoue gets on TV in the U.S. regularly, he’ll become a huge star. But he’s fighting Nonito Donaire in the finals of the WBSS bantamweight tournament, and that’s going to be a challenge for him.

Shakur Stevenson looks like he’ll be a star. If Ryan Garcia continues his development, he will be, too. Heavyweight Daniel Dubois will be 22 at the end of the week and he’ll soon become a major player.

Boxing is a frustrating sport because the best don’t regularly fight the best and we have to put up with double talk from promoters, managers and sanctioning body heads.

But take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and it’s easy to see things are as good in boxing as they have been in many years.

There’s a lot of problems yet to be fixed — two boxers died in the last two months — but the sport is as bright and engaging as it’s been in years.

Pressure your favorite fighters to fight the bouts you want to see, but also don’t forget to appreciate exactly how good we have it all of a sudden.

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