In his latest column, boxing’s master of all trades Russ Anber reflects on returning to New York to work Vasiliy Lomachenko’s corner for the 14th time…

When I got to New York on Monday ahead of working the corner for Vasiliy Lomachenko’s lightweight showdown against Richard Commey I realised it’s been over one-and-a-half years since I was last here in NYC.

On that occasion I was in the Big Apple for Mick Conlan’s aborted March 2020 showdown with Belmar Preciado which was one of the first sporting events to bite the dust way back at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This fact really sunk in on Monday when I was collected at the airport by Top Rank’s Transportation Manager and my usual driver named Damian. Normally he knows the first thing we do is head to Home Depot for me to get my corner buckets. This time we didn’t need to do that because the buckets I bought for the cancelled Conlan fight and never used were still in the care of Andrew, the General Manager at the Stewart Hotel in Manhattan!

With no Home Depot stop, it was a case of getting straight to the hotel instead and I tell you it felt so good to be back in New York, which is – of course – such a great fight city.

The Loma-Commey fight comes at a hectic and exciting time for the lightweight division. In the last two weeks we’ve seen Teofimo Lopez lose to George Kambosos Jr, we’ve seen Devin Haney beat Joseph Diaz and we’ve seen Gervonta Davis overcome Isaac Cruz.

The fact that Kambosos now holds all the belts – in a way – creates a bit of turmoil and uncertainty because we don’t yet know what he is gonna do next. Is he gonna give up one or some of the belts or is he gonna try and defend them all simultaneously?

Anber says the lightweight division is waiting for George Kambosos Jr’s next move.
Image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing.

Something that really throws a wrench in the works is that most of the key players at 135lbs are with different promoters: Loma is with Top Rank, Haney is with Eddie Hearn and Davis is with the PBC. They’re all gunning for Kambosos, who by the way, is promoted by DiBella, and waiting to see what move he makes.

As far as Loma is concerned, I think he deserves a shot to regain his titles. That’s what happened in the old days – the former champion was often first in line. For me Loma vs Kambosos makes the most financial and sporting sense. I hope it’s a fight that gets made. I think as a style match-up it would really please the fans.

Kambosos was very impressive against Lopez. A lot of people wrote him off before the fight based on his performances against Mickey Bey and Lee Selby, who he had some troubles against. But I always thought he was a live dog against Lopez, and even said so on my podcast ahead of the fight.

As well as overlooking the fact Kambosos is a good fighter, people also overlooked the fact that a lot of things went wrong for Lopez in the build-up – he caught Covid, there were cancellations promotional issues and so on.

I like the kid, I really like Teofimo, but maybe he also underestimated George and thought the fight was going to be a walk in the park. And it wasn’t. Kambosos proved that he’s a really tough proposition. I don’t know when the last time a mandatory number one contender was a 13/1 underdog!

Since the fight it’s also emerged that Teofimo had serious health issues and definitely wasn’t 100 per cent. There’s often situations where one or even both fighters aren’t 100 per cent fit for a fight – Loma certainly wasn’t when he fought Lopez – so we can’t take anything away from Kambosos. He did a terrific job – particularly impressive was the fact he climbed off the canvas in the 10th and then hung in there for the 11th and comfortably won the 12th. Like Lopez did against Loma, Kambosos needed that 12th round and he went out there and got it.

Of course, if Loma is going to land the Kambosos fight he has to get through Commey first, which of course I think he will. A lot of people have written premature career obituaries for Loma. In many respects, boxing fans are the worst breed of fans for this sort of thing in the world – once a fighter loses, they’re so quick to say ‘oh, he was overrated!’ and – lo and behold – a guy goes from being regarded as the pound-for-pound number one to being overrated in the space of one fight.

It’s insane and that’s exactly what’s happened with Loma. I’ve spent decades in boxing, and from my point of view, Loma is still the blue chip fighter in the lightweight division. He’s laden with talent, he’s phenomenal at what he does and those people who are writing him off are making a massive mistake.

Let’s also be clear – the only reason any of these guys at 135lbs have had any sort of chance against him is because he’s had to move up to find meaningful fights and to do that he’s had to give up height and weight. When I see pound for pound polls and rankings that don’t have Loma in them because he lost a close decision to Teofimo, well that just tells me that those making those lists have no idea what pound for pound really means !!

On Saturday, Commey will have the same advantages of height, reach and weight that Jorge Linares and every other lightweight has had against Loma. He is also very strong and he punches very hard. I think there’s no doubt that Commey and other lightweights have been given renewed confidence by what Lopez did against Loma. You could argue that the air of invincibility he had has possibly gone. Nakatani’s approach against Loma showed that – he came out full of energy and thinking he would be able to push Loma around, but ultimately those tactics failed.

So yes, against mere mortals Commey would be very dangerous. But if he’s banking on his power getting the job done against Loma then that’s not a whole lot of hope that he’s got. That’s like putting your faith in a life raft that’s losing air rapidly.

My prediction? I think Loma is going to be too gifted and too skilled for him.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

Russ Anber is the founder/ CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.