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Boxing: Shock Lopez loss opens up lightweight division

02 December 2021 06:12:12 EST
Vasiliy Lomachenko is back in action when he faces Richard Commey.

The lightweight division was blown wide open at the weekend as Teofimo Lopez was beaten by George Kambosos Jr, taking his WBA, IBF, WBO and The Ring titles.

The loss was the first of Lopez's career and sent shockwaves around the boxing world as the much-fancied favourite was turned over.

After that shock result, many of the big players in the lightweight division are fighting in the next two weeks and much more will be known about the shape of the contenders to the new king's crown then.

Kambosos Jr the new kid on the block

The biggest victory of Kamabosos' career before the win on Saturday night was a split decision victory over Lee Selby last year.

Following his win over Lopez, the Australian is now unbeaten in 20 professional fights and has taken his last three bouts by split decision.

Kambosos took the fight 115-112 and 115-111 on two judges' scorecards, with the other scoring the bout 114-113 to Lopez.

After the contest, Lopez claimed he had won the fight, but there didn't seem to be many who agreed with him and having gate-crashed Kambosos' post-fight interview to make the claim, Lopez was booed by his home crowd.

Ironically, Lopez secured the WBA, WBO and the Ring belts in the first place in a similar shock win over Vasiliy Lomachenko last year.

It is unclear if a rematch will take place, as there is no clause in the contracts for one to do so. The victor is also not tied to any broadcaster, leaving his options wide open.

Kombosos was called out by Devin Haney and lightweights Ryan Garcia and Shakur Stevenson following his win, with the Australian insisting his first defence will be on home soil next year.

As a shock victor, many will be queuing up to take their shot at him, particularly given he now holds four world title belts.

Kambosos can pick and choose his next opponent, and may want a softer opponent back in Australia as a victory lap before challenging some of the top contenders.

Devin v Diaz

The man who has catapulted himself to the top of the lightweight division will stay in America for one week longer to sit ringside as two of his potential challengers, Haney and Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz face off in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Kambosos will have the best seat in the house to witness a match-up between the undefeated Haney and Diaz.

Haney now holds the only title Kambosos doesn't have his hands on, the WBC belt. The 23-year-old has made it clear that if he beats Diaz he would be looking for a unification fight with the Australian.

Haney is 1.11 to secure the victory over Diaz, with the challenger available at 5.50.

Diaz will be pleased to have gotten a world title shot after his bout with Ryan Garcia fell through as the Flash suffered a hand injury, forcing him to pull out.

However, the Dream is the rightful favourite and should be good enough to get the job done, but the recent events have shown that there is no such thing as a dead cert in the world of boxing.

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The Matrix reloaded

Another lightweight star with an upcoming fight is Lomachenko, who faces Richard Commey on the 11th December at Madison Square Garden.

The Matrix was impressive in his return from the defeat to Lopez, beating Masayoshi Nakatini in June by way of knockout.

The Ukrainian has previously stated that he had fought through an injury in the Lopez fight and demanded a rematch, which he was denied.

Back to full fitness, The Matrix should certainly be feared, his pace and movement are enough to cause even the best in the business problems and he had been almost faultless before the shock defeat to Lopez.

Loma could be on his way back to the top of the tree in the lightweight division and if he beats Commey, which he is 1.11 to do, he would want a shot at Kambosos to get his belts back.

Whether the Australian would want the fight is another thing, but he would get considerable respect for doing so, particularly given Lopez refused Loma a rematch.

Davis v Cruz

A man who has jumped around in weight classes is Gervonta Davis, with the former WBA lightweight title holder returning to 135 for his fight with Isaac Cruz.

Davis has a perfect record of 25 wins from 25 fights and has achieved all but one of those by way of knockout.

However, Tank has been more impressive at 130 lbs than he has at this higher weight and would need to dismiss Cruz the way he has most others to earn a shot at Kambosos.

Cruz is no gimme either, the 23-year-old has had a long professional career for someone so young, as is typical with many Mexican fighters.

Pitbull turned pro at just 17 and has won 22 of his 24 professional fights, his latest coming in a comfortable decision victory over former WBC super featherweight champion and fellow countryman Francisco Vargas.

Nevertheless, Davis is widely fancied to get the win, a 1.071 shot, with Cruz priced up at 7.00.

Garcia may still play a part

Garcia is another fighter who could play a big part in the lightweight division shake-up.

The Flash is undefeated in 21 fights, 18 by way of knockout and most recently beat Luke Campbell in January.

The Californian was then scheduled to fight Javier Fortuna in July, with the winner becoming mandatory challenger to Haney's WBC crown, however, Garcia pulled out of that fight in order to "manage his health and well-being."

In October it was announced that Garcia would be fighting Diaz to reclaim the WBC interim title he gained in his win over Campbell, but Lady Luck intervened once more and, after picking up a hand injury, Garcia had to pull out once again.

When returning to full fitness, Garcia is sure to have a say at the top of the lightweight division, he is ranked as the third-best active lightweight by The Ring and in the top five by most publications.

Where next?

The key question in the lightweight division, if all the heavily fancied contenders who are fighting in the next few weeks are successful, is who will Kambosos look to fight next?

The Australian has gone from a disregarded contender to the most wanted man in the division and his lack of ties to a rematch or a broadcaster means he can be patient and pick the right fight.

Of course, the fancied boxers winning their bouts over the next fortnight is not a given, as we saw with Lopez and the unpredictability of the division is part of the appeal and there are a number of big fights that fans can get excited about potentially on the horizon.

With four of ESPN's top seven lightweights fighting in the next two weeks, a lot more will be known in a very short period of time.

Who can rise to the top?

Kambosos was good value for his win over Lopez and certainly enjoys the underdog status he has acquired, but there is a sense that he may not be quite up to dominating the entire division.

Lopez himself will need to bounce back and return to the form of the Lomachenko fight before he becomes yesterday's man in such a competitive division.

Haney looks the likeliest challenger in the near future to Kambosos' crown, with a unification bout a huge pull for both fighters and promoters alike.

Davis is a fighter who certainly has the power to cause almost every other fighter in the division issues, though he has yet to really be tested at 135 so his limitations are yet to be exposed.

In the long term, Lomachenko may be the one to rise back to the top of the division. The Ukrainian looked in worryingly good touch in his return fight.

He had a fair excuse for his defeat at the hands of Lopez and has all the tools to beat the other contenders to the top of the tree and regain his belts.

The Matrix may have the defensive capabilities that some of the other more offensive boxers in the division lack and that may tell over time.

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