It was a busy Saturday in boxing, with three living legends picking up wins, a handful of world titles successfully defended, and a big name prospect continuing a strong run of form with another good win.
So what comes next for some of this weekend’s winners?
What He Did: Lomachenko won a dominant decision over former titleholder Richard Commey, and looked like the sort of Loma who gets fans, media, and analysts so certain that when he’s at his best, he’s nearly unbeatable.
What Comes Next: Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KO) wants to become undisputed champion at lightweight, so the two targets would be George Kambosos Jr and Devin Haney, or maybe he considers the WBC “franchise” belt proper — after all, it was Lomachenko avoiding Haney that created that nonsense in the first place — so to him, it’s just Kambosos. George Jr can do what he wants right now, but of all the top names at 135, Lomachenko might be the most willing to go to Australia and fight Kambosos. He’s a well-traveled fighter from his amateur days into the pro ranks.
Kambosos hasn’t seemed as pumped on fighting Lomachenko as he has Haney, Tank Davis, or Ryan Garcia, which you can read into how you want, but I think if it comes right down to it, Kambosos would take the fight if he can get it at home in Australia and the other three don’t want to go down there. He’s said Lomachenko is “in the equation” with the others, and Bob Arum has said the fight “makes sense.”
If not Kambosos for Lomachenko, there will be options. Devin Haney is out there with the WBC belt. Tank Davis and Ryan Garcia are out there, too, however unlikely either would be. If Loma doesn’t fight Kambosos, all the others can’t fight Kambosos, so someone will be available. You just hope it’s a proper big fight next; Vasiliy is 33 and we know very well what he does against the likes of Commey and Masayoshi Nakatani.
Dark horse: While I wouldn’t suggest it will happen, I wouldn’t 100 percent count out Shakur Stevenson coming up to 135 or Lomachenko going back down to 130 to make that fight. It might simply wind up being the best available fight.
What He Did: You know, Nonito Donaire stuff. Left hook. Knockout. Another successful title defense, another great win in a remarkable career.
What Comes Next: With Reymart Gaballo dispatched, Donaire (42-6, 28 KO) says he wants the title unification rematch with Naoya Inoue. Inoue fights on Tuesday, but if he loses to Aran Dipaen it will be the shock of the year by miles, even totally dwarfing what Kambosos did against Teofimo Lopez. I mean, Kambosos was a big underdog, but pretty much everyone thought he was top 10 in the division. Dipaen is nowhere near top 10 in the division if you ask anyone who isn’t a sanctioning body.
Everyone would love to see Inoue-Donaire 2, I think. John Riel Casimero does not appear to be a viable option for either man — and Donaire (understandably) just doesn’t like him or want to give him the stage, anyway — and Inoue is pretty hopelessly without options right now within Top Rank. Donaire’s with Richard Schaefer’s Probellum and has been working with PBC, but the deal can be done if everyone wants to do it, and it should be. Nonito’s 39, and as great as he still is, you’d want to see him get his crack again at Inoue before it’s too late, because “too late” has a habit of coming upon pro fighters — and all pro athletes, and most of us normal people in different ways — really suddenly.
Otherwise, probably some sanctioning body contender or other. Maybe he’ll wait to see how the WBO decision shakes out; if Casimero gets stripped and Paul Butler fights someone for the vacant belt, Nonito could look at the Butler-TBA winner for unification if Inoue isn’t immediately available, which could then set up Inoue-Donaire 2 for full undisputed status in about a year or so, maybe. Whatever happens, it remains a joy and even privilege just to watch Nonito Donaire fight. He deserves all the respect and credit in the world.
What He Did: Bivol successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title in Russia, handily out-pointing Umar Salamov over 12 rounds.
What Comes Next: The answer to this may come on Dec. 18, when Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez faces Yunieski Gonzalez in a WBA eliminator, at which point the winner of that could get an official mandatory order to face Bivol (19-0, 11 KO). Bivol would surely like a big fight next — he’s been very open to fighting Canelo Alvarez, even willing to do a catchweight or whatever, even repeatedly offering to fully go down to 168 for it, and there’s also a potential unification clash with Artur Beterbiev, which is a fight and matchup I personally love, two guys who do very different things but do those things incredibly well. (Beterbiev also fights this weekend, facing Marcus Browne on Dec. 17, which is no gimme fight.)
You’d like to see Bivol get a big fight, but if Zurdo Ramirez wins on Saturday and that’s the offer, that’s still a pretty big fight, and I like that matchup. Zurdo has a good workrate, has some power, tall and rangy and might be able to use those advantages better than Salamov did. But then again, maybe not, Bivol really is a very, very good fighter at worse and he has repeatedly “overcome” not being a big light heavyweight. If that’s the “worst” option, it’s a good option.
What He Did: Benn got a highlight reel knockout of Chris Algieri in Liverpool, which means he did something that Manny Pacquiao couldn’t do, and he stopped Algieri faster and more spectacularly than Errol Spence did, too. The point is, Conor Benn is better than Pacquiao or Spence.
What Comes Next: Joking aside, I think Benn (20-0, 13 KO) has become a real deal prospect and emerging contender in a division that is headed toward a refresh. The 25-year-old “Destroyer” is miles better than the kid who struggled through six rounds with Cedrick Peynaud in 2017, or the guy who more convincingly beat Peynaud over 10 in 2018. He’s sharpened up, kept learning, kept improving, and he’s had four straight very nice results for the level he’s at.
Benn’s options now might be someone like Robert Guerrero or Abel Ramos — I think the latter would actually be a very good fight to make if it can be made — or a Sergey Lipinets or Custio Clayton type, maybe. Depends on what Matchroom really want to do; Guerrero could get the call with what’s left of his name value, or if they want someone more likely to give a test, the others would fit better. Benn isn’t quite a Vergil Ortiz or Jaron Ennis level emerging star, but he’s not so far off that, either. If Matchroom want to stay domestic, the fight with Josh Kelly has certainly lost luster and Benn would be a clear favorite now, but there’s probably still a little money there and they’d make it easy to promote.
What She Did: Taylor retained her undisputed lightweight championship with a win over Firuza Sharipova, not Taylor’s best performance but a clear and deserved victory.
What Comes Next: As John Hansen put it in the recap, “As top level fighters age, they often transition from a dominant phase to a “scrappy” phase. If Katie Taylor wasn’t at that point already, she found herself there tonight against a sharp and capable opponent in Firuza Sharipova.” Watching the fight this morning, I agreed with that assessment.
Taylor (20-0, 6 KO) is still the best lightweight in boxing, but her claim as the best pound-for-pound fighter remains questionable. It’s not gone, but Taylor’s 35 years old and didn’t have an easy night here. But she is still Katie Taylor, and she has the all-around boxing skill and know-how to get around a natural decline in speed and physical skill. She’s very smart, she’s not afraid to ugly it up, and is still a very effective fighter.
With regard to Taylor and what comes next, eyes should be on Amanda Serrano this weekend, as she faces Miriam Gutierrez on the Paul-Woodley 2 card. Serrano and Taylor had a deal to fight at one point, COVID and other stuff killed it off, but Serrano returning to lightweight after a stint back at featherweight seems to indicate a clear intention to once again go after the Taylor bout. It’s a great fight for both of them, probably the biggest fight they can do.
If not Serrano, the well has run pretty dry at 135 other than Estelle Mossely, Taylor’s amateur rival who has shown no real desire for a pro rematch yet — which is not to say there isn’t any, just that it hasn’t been shown. But there is some top talent at 130, including titleholder Mikaela Mayer, who has interest in a Taylor fight. I’d love to see that fight. I wouldn’t object to seeing Maiva Hamadouche, even coming off of a loss to Mayer, come up and take a fight with Taylor, either, because frankly I’m never going to object to any Hamadouche fight. She rules.
- Cody Crowley’s win over Kudratillo Abdukakhorov shouldn’t be considered a massive upset, but it was an upset, if only because Abdukakhorov came in with at least some acclaim, back end of the top 10 or so at welterweight, and Crowley was still pretty unknown. But Crowley (20-0, 9 KO) won that fight, flat out, he was just the better fighter, and now he’s at least some sort of player at 147 lbs.
He’s put himself into the conversation, but with boxing you never know, and the 147 lb division is top-heavy with Spence and Crawford and, to a lesser extent, Ugas, then you have the hot prospects (Ortiz, Ennis, Benn), and then it gets really crowded with guys around this level. Crowley has an outside shot at finding himself in the ring with Errol Spence if Spence’s team want what will be seen as a “safe” comeback fight following the eye surgery, or he could find himself in the ring against Robert Guerrero or Jamal James or Custio Clayton or Sergey Lipinets or Omar Figueroa Jr, or he could find himself back in Canada because someone important doesn’t like that he won. Boxing!
- It was another impressive showing for young Brandun Lee on Showtime, too, as the 22-year-old blasted out Juan Heraldez in the seventh round. Lee (24-0, 22 KO) is a 140 lb prospect, big for the weight, has speed and power, can still tighten up his overall game and has the time to do so. If he wasn’t already on your radar, I hope he is now, because he’s a legitimately exciting prospect. Heraldez was a good opponent for where Lee is, and some sort of moderate step would probably be the right move next, someone like Darwin Price or Ryan Martin. Just please don’t make people watch Ivan Redkach again. That’s about all I really ask.
- Top Rank prospects Jared Anderson, Keyshawn Davis, and Xander Zayas all won Saturday in fights they had no real chance of losing, and you should expect them to keep doing the same for a bit longer if not a few years for Anderson and Zayas. Davis may get fast-tracked, but even then it’ll be a few fights at least before he’s facing someone who might really be dangerous. Nico Ali Walsh will also keep doing the same things he’s been doing.