This Saturday and Sunday, two elite 135-pound fighters face off against opponents that could be considered quarterfinal matchups in an un-official lightweight tourney. Devin Haney takes on Joseph Diaz Jr. in what appears to be his stiffest test on paper streaming on DAZN, and the following night Gervonta Davis and Isaac Cruz face off on Showtime PPV. Of course, the winners won’t be fighting each other next or any time shortly, but it’s a start anyway. Let’s hope we get at least one or two of the top boxers to square off at 135 in 2022 to begin the separation process.
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The world of boxing is filled with land minds regarding making big fights especially involving younger boxers on different platforms. Last summer, this ridiculous theme of “The 4 Kings” was circulating on boxing twitter. A 5th king has been added from a major upset last weekend by the hands of George Kambosos defeating Teofimo Lopez. It was a mistake and downright silly to label, albeit a talent-laced group of fighters who hadn’t proved much before Lopez beat Vasiliy Lomachenko. Crowning fighters as the savor of boxing is always strange, yet we see it routinely on our timelines. The actual four kings from the late ’70s and ’80s had to earn that moniker.
Most fighters as prospects/contenders are super hungry and call out all the top boxers in their division. Once that boxer has accomplished something, they tend to look for the biggest fights financially and ignore the up and coming boxer. Case in point, Keith Thurman climbed up the welterweight ladder calling out everyone, including Floyd Mayweather, only to later brush off a bout against a rising Errol Spence. Keith Thurman wants to fight Errol but doesn’t know who Boots Ennis is. Spence was calling out everyone, including Keith Thurman but is looking to fight guys with names and belts instead of going backwards. Guys like Ennis, now on the contender level, probably won’t be looking to face anyone too far behind him on the ladder.
Yes, some matchups perform better at the box office once they are built properly. At times, someone like Shawn Porter will take the B-side money and role to make a big fight happen, but it’s challenging for an established boxer like Terence Crawford to accept the lesser status in negotiation with Errol Spence. It does seem like these 135-pounders will be willing to get in the ring sooner rather than later, to an extent, of course. If Haney wins, he has a great chance of landing an undisputed fight versus Kambosos, given how much DAZN would invest and his willingness to travel abroad. According to Matchroom Sports promoter, Eddie Hearn DAZN has plans to expand in Kambosos home country of Australia, so it makes a lot of sense.
If Gervonta Davis wins on Sunday, his side of the street could offer enough money to Kambosos to make the fight happen. This boxing podcaster has always assumed Tank would face Ryan Garcia first because of how big of a fight it would be here in the states and well worth the risk/reward at this stage. It seemed we were close to getting that matchup early this year, but Manny Pacquiao talks and then Ryan’s mental health issues stalled it. Haney and Garcia have always said they will fight in the future, but if somehow Haney gets all the belts, then it could be on a faster track. As for Teofimo were not even sure he stays at 135, so he won’t likely be in the mix until these guys start to head up to 140 in the coming years. The darkhorse to rule this division is George Kambosos, as he continues to fly under the radar even after his big win over Teofimo.
Wouldn’t it be great if these “quarterfinals” fights (Yes, I know it’s premature to use quarterfinals as well, lol) led to all four boxers fighting another “King”? In 2022 there is a case that at least one of those fights will happen, which would be great considering the snails-pace that boxing operates on at times. If the Tank vs Ryan Garcia fight didn’t happen, maybe we could get Gary Russell Jr. or something interesting for Tank. Anyway, let’s quickly break down these two fights for this weekend.
This boxing fan believes he will see a patient, Gervonta Davis, willing to show his skills and wait for the knockout until it’s presented. Isaac Cruz is a runaway freight train looking to end his opponent at all costs defensively. Look for Tank to have a high guard when he gets close to Cruz and possibly some lateral movement in the early goings. Davis will circle/pivot as he attempts to pick off Cruz on the way inside. Once Gervonta finds his timing, he won’t be boxing or moving on the outside for long, and with the lack of defense from Isaac, it could be a relatively short night.
There is a possibility that both guys go to war in the trenches early, or Cruz catches and hurts Tank, something Isaac is plenty capable of. We haven’t seen a more defensively responsible version of Tank since his bouts with Jose Pedraza, Jesus Cuellar, or Liam Walsh. That could be why Davis decided to bring in Barry Hunter as his lead trainer, having seen himself getting hit a bunch in the last two outings. After destroying Diego Magdaleno, Isaac went the complete 10 and 12 rounds limit with Francisco Vargas and Jose Matias Romero, both good and bad heading into the most challenging fight of his career at age 23. However, this fight is fought; it won’t take long to be highly entertaining in the ring. Skill, speed, experience, and power all favor Tank, so you’re not going to see this guy pick Isaac.
My Official Prediction is Gervonta Davis by knockout in the mid-to-late rounds.
Devin Haney looked generally sharp in his last bout versus Jorge Linares. That was until he was poorly hurt late in the fight. Haney did a smart thing by holding to buy time, but it seemed he kept that strategy going for far too long. Which can only mean two items, and one is that he couldn’t recoup. That alone could be a red flag, considering the punchers he could face at some point in Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia. I don’t have an issue with boxers tying up when hurt, but Devin decided to take it to the bear-hug level, something that won’t win over the judges in a close fight at the top levels of the sport.
Joseph Diaz Jr. is a quality fighter who has competed at 126, 130 and is now established at 135. He’s not a puncher, but he does have pop and can be aggressive in a fairly heady way. Diaz attacks the body well and has a knack for accurate punching in combination once he gets close enough. If Haney decides he wants to rush things and try to hurt Daiz without marinating his prey, he could be in for a long or short night. This lifetime follower of the sport would be shocked if Haney didn’t stick behind his jab and trust his skills as the all-around better fighter. A sizable reach advantage for Devin is a deal breaker as it will be tough for Diaz to get inside to get his damaging and wearing shots off.
My Official Prediction is Devin Haney by Unanimous Decision.
Side Note: The Showtime PPV undercard is full of good scraps to get your monies worth featuring Ramirez/Marriaga as the opener. Derevyanchecnko vs Adames will be a blast, and the co-main is a can’t-miss between Sebastian Fundora and Sergio Garcia.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Com Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio