While the USA basks in lightweight glory with the continued emergence of potential superstars and hall-of-famers there is contrasting fortunes at the weight class in Great Britain.
Luke Campbell’s chopping left hand gave British fans that familiar feeling of hope and a false dawn when it whacked Ryan Garcia in round two of their Dallas dust-up last weekend. Campbell’s decision to not go for broke can be argued but it must also be respected because of Garcia’s impressive powers of recovery and the constant threat of his speed and power which he possesses.
There are now three paths for Campbell to choose from: Retirement, a move to super-lightweight or a continuation at lightweight patiently waiting for a vacant title opportunity. His name still carries stock and a win over someone like Richard Commey, Javier Fortuna or in a rematch with Jorge Linares would see him back in the running for a third world title opportunity.
While the 33-year-old, who turns 34 this September, ponders his next move what about the state of play for the rest of the division in a country that still harks back to halcyon days at lightweight thanks to the Scottish pairing of Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt.
Campbell remains the best in Britain but beneath him another couple of thirty-somethings in the Celtic shapes of Lee Selby and Ricky Burns continue to depend on their names and reputations to receive reasonable paydays and opportunities.
Stacking Campbell, Selby and Burns up against Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia (writer’s note: haven’t forgotten Lomachenko but this article is about the USA v UK) is sadly the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gun fight. So, who else from these shores has the ammunition from to take down the best that the American front line has to offer?
Record: 28-3, 24 KOs.
If you are Johnny Nelson or an employee of Matchroom Boxing or Sky Sports, then you may think Tennyson beats Gervonta Davis or should be tagged as the Belfast Golovkin. Whoa their cowboys, lets remember what happened with Lewis Ritson before hyperbole and pound signs take over. It’s part of the business, we get it, but the facts are Tennyson’s best wins at 135lbs have been against Craig Evans, Gavin Gwynne and Atif Shafiq. Tennyson’s power and finishing have many licking their lips but over two years ago he was stopped by Tevin Farmer in five rounds in a super featherweight world title fight. How good Tennyson is at lightweight remains to be seen. He is a threat, his power is real, but the facts are he is still a long way off beating America’s power four. Tennyson needs a W against someone like Linares to give substance to Nelson’s wild claims.
Record: 22-5-2, 4 KOs
The painter and decorator had a 2020 year to remember. A feel-good story which began with the Yorkshireman’s ten-round points win over former world title challenger Jono Carroll. Training alongside IBF Featherweight machine Josh Warrington, Hughes went on to Dubai to beat the promising Viktor Kotochigov. Hughes’ abilities are beginning to be noticed and respected by those that have ignored them over the years. A world title fight and a hefty pay day would be a remarkable turnaround for a career that seemed destined to stay in domestic title fights. Like Tennyson the prospect of him beating one of the four does seem unlikely.
Record: 23-1, 15 KOs
The Cromer 34-year-old has already fought Gervonta Davis (see issue 2 of Boxing Social magazine) and it ended in the third round. The gulf in class was on display while contesting ‘Tank’s’ 126lbs IBF world title. Walsh does hold a win over Maxi Hughes, but inactivity has done him no favours during his career. A British lightweight title opportunity against Paul Hyland Jr is waiting in the wings and while Walsh is a crafty, aggressive boxer who has good domestic wins on his slate a world title opportunity seems like a long way off.
Record: 11-0, 5 KOs
McComb could be the joker in the pack at 135lbs. He has the potential to outgrow the domestic scene very quickly with an international route providing the challenges he needs. The charismatic southpaw is yet to be in a fight where the pivotal questions are asked. And the facts are that by the time he moves on to the world title scene, Lopez and co. may have moved on. McComb though remains an intriguing proposition for the future.
So, it is safe to say that the British challenge at lightweight has thinned. The hopes and glory that Campbell, Burns, Anthony Crolla and Terry Flanagan have given us in the past are now gone. Kevin Mitchell, John Murray, Gavin Rees and Derry Mathews also took British fans on memorable trips in recent years but alas they fell at the final hurdle against the likes of Linares, Adrien Broner and Brandon Rios despite providing us with some memorable domestic clashes in between.
The Frank Warren prospect Mark Chamberlain looks exciting and his development will be one to keep tabs on. A wildcard could be the WBA and IBF 140lb world champion Josh Taylor who has talked about going 5lbs south to take on Teofimo Lopez. That would drastically alter British chances. And as things stand at super-featherweight in the UK right now, we might see the likes of Anthony Cacace, one-time lightweight Joe Cordina, Zelfa Barrett and Martin J Ward plan an invasion for two-weight opportunities.
For now, it seems like our opportunities are gone. We should sit back and watch the drama that the unfairly named Four Kings bring. And while our combatants will give it everything they have got should they land in a warzone with a ‘Tank’, for example, our realistic successes for more world titles lie at cruiserweight (Okolie), light heavyweight (Buatsi, Johnson, Arthur, *Callum Smith*), super middleweight (Ryder), middleweight (Eubank Jr, Williams), super lightweight (Catterall), super featherweight (Frampton) featherweight (Galahad), bantamweight (McGregor, Farooq and *Kal Yafai*).
*Indicates writer’s assumption that fighter has moved up a weight division.