Matchup: Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Richard Commey
Former titleholders Vasiliy Lomachenko and Richard Commey keep the lightweight division rolling strong here at the end of 2021, following Lopez-Kambosos, Haney-Diaz, and Davis-Cruz.
Those fights were all significant, and all played out quite differently. George Kambosos Jr, of course, scored probably the Upset of the Year over Teofimo Lopez, while Devin Haney took care of business in a competitive fight with JoJo Diaz Jr, and Gervonta Davis won but didn’t dominate against Isaac Cruz.
An upset, a fight that played out like most imagined, and one that was far more competitive than anticipated.
Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KO) is a great fighter, headed for the Hall of Fame — pro boxing only fans may quibble with this, but you also have to take into account his legendary amateur career here, and at any rate he’s had a better pro career than plenty of people in the Hall. But I do believe there is a sort of romanticizing of Lomachenko that often happens, an imagination that he is purely untouchable, and only pro inexperience against Orlando Salido and injury against Teofimo Lopez have thwarted him.
Hey, maybe it’s true, at least to a degree. But do you know who’s dominated Richard Commey? Teofimo Lopez, who caught him with a great shot in round two. Otherwise, Commey has either smashed opponents himself, or been on the wrong end of questionable cards against Robert Easter Jr and Denis Shafikov in back-to-back 2016 bouts.
Maybe Lomachenko’s skills will see him befuddle Commey, it’s certainly possible. But Commey (30-3, 27 KO) is also a legitimate lightweight, a pretty big dude who can crack, presenting far more thunder than Masayoshi Nakatani did against Loma back in June.
I’m not saying Commey should be the favorite, but that it maybe shouldn’t be considered a foregone conclusion that Lomachenko will be looking to 2022 for big title fights. There is nobody at 135 lbs against whom Commey isn’t at least dangerous. He will not out-box Lomachenko, but he has the power to change the fight if he’s given an opening.
With this being Top Rank’s final card of 2021, they’ve got the strong main event — Lomachenko draws eyeballs, and it’s a good matchup — and then they’re featuring young talent through the rest of the card.
Notable are the returns for heavyweight Jared Anderson and junior middleweight Xander Zayas, and also the official Top Rank debut of Keyshawn Davis, a top amateur who won silver earlier this year at the Tokyo Olympics, only losing in the final to quite arguably the best boxer we saw at the Games, Cuba’s Andy Cruz.
Anderson (10-0, 10 KO) has been nicely promoted by Top Rank, building his profile and his buzz while being carefully handled as a 22-year-old heavyweight prospect. That continues Saturday, as he faces Ukrainian-Canadian Oleksandr Tislenko (17-1, 13 KO), a 29-year-old whose best win was probably against Fabio Maldonado, and he was stopped in Ontario by Shawndell Terell Winters in 2019. His 17-1 record looks good — “He’s only got one loss, Dre!” you can imagine Joe Tessitore shouting this weekend if Tessitore is working the show — but it’s pretty empty.
Zayas, a 19-year-old Puerto Rican, is 11-0 (8 KO) and keeps looking good as he’s also inched along. He decided to leave behind the 147 lb division, with he and his team taking the legitimately mature approach that by the time Xander is ready for real fights, he won’t be able to make 147 anymore, anyway. He faces Alessio Mastronunzio (9-1, 3 KO) on Saturday. The 26-year-old Italian has never fought outside of his home country and isn’t, like, some prospect or anything. You’d think there was probably an equivalent fighter in the U.S. Northeast that didn’t need to be brought in from Italy, but what do I know? Maybe Mastronunzio is in the States for the holidays and figured he might as well work.
The 22-year-old Davis (3-0, 2 KO) may not have a nickname that excites fans (“The Businessman” is not promising), but he’s a fantastic talent. He’s already had the three pro fights, but didn’t sign with a promoter, sort of auditioning his talents. It was a good move, because once he went to Tokyo as a late add to Team USA and performed so well, he drove his stock through the roof. He’ll be taking on Jose Zaragoza (8-3-1, 2 KO), a 33-year-old from Mexico.
Also returning: Joe Ward, Nico Ali Walsh, Pablo Valdez, John Bauza, and Keyshawn’s brother Kelvin Davis.
Everything listed at DraftKings for this card is pretty one-sided on paper, including what really is a good main event fight. Lomachenko is still Lomachenko to most, and he’s favored at -900 against Commey, who is listed at +600.
Jared Anderson (-2500), Keyshawn Davis (-2500), Xander Zayas (-3000), and Nico Ali Walsh (-1800) are all huge favorites, with their opponents between +900 and +1100.
How to Watch
Both ESPN+ and ESPN will have Lomachenko-Commey on Saturday, with main card coverage beginning at 9 pm ET on Saturday, December 11, preceded by the prelims kicking off exclusively on ESPN+ at 5:30 pm ET. Bad Left Hook will have full coverage and round by round updates.