PRO/CON: López, Davis, García, and Haney Will Make Lightweight Boxing’s Glamour Division in 2021, Jones Bros. Debate
By Paul R. Jones! and Justin Jones: Lightweights Teófimo López, Gervonta Davis, Ryan García, and Devin Haney took significant steps forward over the past year, but will their rise be enough to help the lightweights supplant the heavyweights and welterweights as boxing’s glamour division in 2021?
Paul R. Jones! and Justin Jones debate this issue with Paul offering reasons why this hot take is the real McCoy (PRO) and Justin rebutting with reasons why this take is fool’s gold (CON).
PAUL R. JONES!
PRO: There’s a lot of “there” there
The lightweight division is bursting at the seams with transcendent talent. And the division’s Big 4 – López, Davis, García, and Haney – are potential unicorns with stylistic diversity and a knack for piecing up their foes.
All four have compelling backstories, undefeated records, and the good fortune of fighting in or near their prime.
They’ve also achieved early success, including López and Davis garnering top honors in 2020.
Equally important, the quartet is part of an emerging youth movement that is invigorating the sport and building a substantial social media following (>13M on Twitter and Instagram, combined).
The lightweight Big 4 also skews young with a millennial (Davis) and 3 Gen Zers. Contrast them with the top 4 heavyweights and welterweights whose average ages are 35 and 34, respectively.
That means that there’s ample time to make big fights and lucrative rematches among the top lightweights without their promoters having to worry about these fighters retiring or eating themselves out of the division anytime soon.
CON: Welterweights offer a higher ceiling than the lightweights
Yes, the lightweight division rang in the New Year with a bang, and it features a nice crop of young stars. But all eyes are still on the real glamour divisions in 2021, welterweight and heavyweight.
Let’s start at 147. The welterweight division has the highest ceiling and holds the most cards of any division in terms of star power, talent, depth, and potential matchups.
- The biggest and best matchup that can be made in boxing is Crawford vs. Spence. (Fact!)
- What other class boasts two Top 5 Pound-for-Pound fighters on most pundits’ and publications’ list (e.g., Iole, Campbell, The Ring, ESPN)? I’ll wait.
- What other division could run a better college football-style tourney than the welterweights, including Crawford, Spence, Pacquiao, Porter, Garcia, Thurman, Ugas, and Ennis? None.
The only thing holding the division back from rivaling the “Four Kings” era (Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, and Duran) is itself.
But these fascinating matchups are becoming more of a fantasy, and it’s limiting the division’s potential. And if the big fights don’t happen soon, people will look elsewhere, which is unfortunate and unnecessary.
PAUL R. JONES!
PRO: Lightweights are younger and less risk-averse
Conventional wisdom suggests that the older you are, the more risk-averse you become. Research also shows that risk-taking decreases between younger and older adulthood on recreational tasks.
So it’s not unreasonable to assume that the lightweight Big 4 might be more willing to risk their “0” against their division’s vanguard than their counterparts at heavyweight and welterweight.
And there’s at least a kernel of truth to this argument. For instance, Davis and López have sparred. Davis and García have also continued their war of words on social media and the podcast circuit to gin up interest in a potential showdown.
Haney and García are perhaps the most well acquainted, having fought 6 times in the amateurs.
These aren’t the types of behaviors that you’d expect from spooked fighters.
Now contrast their willingness to fight each other to that of the top heavies and welters. Remember, we’re still waiting on Fury vs. Joshua, Joshua vs. Wilder, and Crawford vs. Spence. And those fighters aren’t getting any younger.
You can also bet that among the top heavies and welters, beyond promotional ties, apprehension overtaking (and recovering from) a loss later in one’s career isn’t making fights like Crawford vs. Spence any easier to make, especially when age and risk tolerance are considered.
CON: We should be more bullish on the heavyweights in 2021
The big boys had a revival over the last few years, with Fury, Joshua, and Wilder serving as the division’s Big 3. There’s also enough talent and interest for the division to level up in ’21.
- Joshua vs. Fury needs to happen: Two of the sport’s biggest draws must cross paths, hopefully twice in 2021. This is the second biggest fight to make talent-wise, but it’s THE biggest fight revenue-wise.
- Who’s got next? With solid guys on the periphery (e.g., Ortiz, Joyce, Usyk, Povetkin, Ruiz, Whyte), there’s enough juice to build on the Joshua vs. Fury momentum.
- The Blueprint: Wilder and Fury’s fights laid the groundwork for getting big fights done at heavyweight with rival promoters and networks. There should be no excuse why similar fights and rematches can’t be made in the division involving the top dogs.
PAUL R. JONES!
PRO: The lightweight talent pool is deep and sustainable
Few divisions offer more depth among their reigning champions and contenders than today’s lightweights. And there’s real depth beyond the Big 4, including a supporting cast of former champs (Lomachenko, Linares, Commey, Easter Jr.) and respectable contenders (Fortuna, Nakatani).
Fights involving any of the lightweight titlists and top contenders are bound to produce solid scraps. Don’t believe me? Consider Online Boxing Editor Michael Benson’s thought experiment applying the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) format to today’s lightweight division.
Is there any doubt that a lightweight WBSS would offer more compelling matchups, from top to bottom, than a similar tourney among heavyweights or welterweights?
What’s more, the lightweights boast an influx of young talent (e.g., Kambosos) and a promising crop of prospects (e.g., Lua, Cruz González). There’s also a swath of junior lightweight and featherweight champs that could infuse the lightweight division with further intrigue should they decide to move up (e.g., Russell Jr., Stevenson, Berchelt).
PAUL R. JONES!
PRO: The bottom line. Given their skill, age, and depth, the lightweights, are undoubtedly the glamour division of contemporary boxing. And their cadre of champions and challengers, coupled with a sustainable ecosystem of young prospects, is capable of keeping the division competitive and relevant for years to come.
CON: The bottom line. Heavyweight and welterweight are still boxing’s glamour divisions, but politics are damaging their brand. However, if we keep calling for the best to fight the best, then sooner or later, the powers that be will take our requests seriously and honor them.
Let’s hope 2021 is the year.
■ Write to PAUL R. JONES! At email@example.com and JUSTIN JONES at Justinjones2112@gmail.com.
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- Bob Arum says Porter remains Crawford’s Plan-B option if no Pacquiao