Right now, the lightweight division is red hot and top-heavy with young, hungry talent about to reach their physical primes.
Most recently, the 22-year-old Ryan Garcia affirmed his spot near the top of the list with an impressive seventh-round TKO of veteran former Olympic gold medalist, Luke Campbell. But, before the Campbell fight even took place, “KingRy” was calling out the sport’s most decorated active star, Manny Pacquiao.
“My dream is I beat ‘Tank’ Davis and then I end up getting a chance to fight Manny Pacquiao before he gets to go, “Garcia told DAZN. “Because he is one of my idols. He is one of those people, I look up to, and I think he is that last great legend that after Muhammad Ali and all the other legends, he is one of those…So, it will be an honor to be in the ring with him.”
An ambitious young fighter calling out a cash cow like Pacquiao is certainly no surprise. And Garcia, at 5-foot-10, actually stands a chance of making the two-division climb up to Manny’s current fighting weight.
But the lightweight class is all-around full of callouts and big-fight challenges.
The 23-year-old Teofimo Lopez, who scaled to the top of the division with an upset victory over 135 lb. kingpin Vasiliy Lomachenko last fall, recently sent a contract offer to 22-year-old Devin Haney. The bout would put Lopez’s IBF, WBO, and WBA belts up against Haney’s WBC belt.
Garcia, meanwhile, has been relentlessly calling out 26-year-old Gervonta “Tank” Davis, even going so far as to do so via direct phone call live on Mike Tyson’s “Hotboxin'” podcast.
Devin Haney has also been all over the place, casting lines for big fights and making challenges to Garcia, Lopez, Davis, as well as a very much in-the-mix Lomachenko.
One could literally put all of these names into a hat, pick a matchup at random, and be assured of a good, interesting, and satisfying battle. The top five at 135 is as compelling as any other top five in the sport.
These are most definitely interesting times in the historical weight class of legends such as Roberto Duran, Henry Armstrong, Benny Leonard, and even, for a brief run, Manny Pacquiao, himself. Most likely, these rivalries will carry on to higher weight classes as the young fighters mature and grow into larger frames.
But does that mean that Pacquiao could be a legitimate target for any of them?
These are all 20-something fighters just starting to develop into their full potential. Pacquiao is a 42-year-old legend who is very close to the end of his professional run, with maybe two fights left before retirement. There’s also the fact that, given the current pandemic-affected fight scene, all details regarding Pacquiao’s comeback are still very much up in the air.
It might be a smart move for Team Pacquiao to consider taking on one of these young lions now, while their name has market value and they’re still not fully developed as fighters. Ryan Garcia would be the ideal choice in that case. The kid could easily add ten pounds to his tall, thin, lanky frame for a welterweight clash against Manny. He’s also got some exploitable holes in his technique and overall game that would make him the perfect reward vs. risk opponent within the next year or so.
That would be a cynical matchmaking move for Pacquiao, but one which would not be unheard of in the sport of boxing.
But it would be infinitely better for the sport if these lightweight future stars just fought one another until a SUPERstar was created. Here’s hoping the muddled state of boxing business doesn’t keep this from happening.