Ray Leonard was 23. Wilfred Benitez was 21.
Erik Morales was 22. Marco Antonio Barrera was 26.
Roman Gonzalez was 25. Juan Francisco Estrada was 22.
Their fights marked not just memorable clashes between future Hall of Famers. They were also critical first clashes in memorable round robins across multiple weight classes that fed an entire era in the divisions where they competed or are still competing.
Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) is 22.
Gervonta Davis (24-0, 23 KO) is 26.
They seem to want to get it on now.
While reading this, the handlers of both men may already be working on a timeline for just that. It would be a pleasant surprise. It’s not remotely true, but it feels that way too often, to say boxing’s best don’t fight each other. It is fair to say the game of avoid now and collect later goes on far more than anyone likes.
Depth is the best tonic.
When there are only a handful of fights to be made, or one big fight on the horizon, it’s easier to delay. Depth forces more showdowns as, even with this build-a-belt era, there are still only so many belts to go around and fans will only pay for subpar for so long.
We have a long way to go before anyone among the current blue chip crop at Jr. lightweight and lightweight proves to be a Hall of Famer. Several have yet to beat their first serious contender or title.
It’s not a stretch to say there’s probably more than one of them in the crew.
Garcia and Davis, with their unique social media followings and early ticket selling ability, doesn’t have to be a start point. It’s just as good a start point as any.
Among others, they are part of the most promising assemblage of fresh talent at their weight classes since the emergence of Floyd Mayweather, Diego Corrales, Joel Casmayor, and Acelino Freitas. While all four of those men didn’t face off, the addition of a prime Jose Luis Castillo to their foursome ultimately produced 12 fights between 2001 and 2006. In the first of those, a 23-year old Mayweather painted a masterpiece against 23-year old Corrales.
Someone had to lose. Sports doesn’t work its best without that risk. Both men went on to excellent careers. That’s the thing about youth.
Youth is time.
Garcia and Davis are relevant right now because of Garcia’s off the floor victory over Luke Campbell last Saturday and the subsequent tweets and Insta’s from both. Feel free to swap them out with newly minted 23-year old lineal lightweight king Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO). His victory over Vasyl Lomachenko, and Davis’s detonation of Leo Santa Cruz, served as a sort of twin announcement of arrival to the next level of their careers.
Things won’t be in full swing until they start fighting each other, joined by names like:
– 22-year old Devin Haney (25-0, 15 KO)
– 24-year old Chris Colbert (15-0, 6 KO)
– 23-year old Shakur Stevenson (15-0, 8 KO)
That this isn’t the sum total of young talent at 130 or 135 speaks to the potential at hand. Add in solid veterans like Miguel Berchelt, Joseph Diaz, Vasyl Lomachenko, Jamel Herring, and Oscar Valdez and the possibilities for the next few years are tantalizing. So are the options for new co-stars as inevitable moves up the scale come to pass.
At Jr. welterweight right now, the obvious best fight in class is Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez. If they fight, as soon as the final bell rings, Lopez is going to be an option for the winner.
It doesn’t have to be Garcia-Davis. Garcia is now a WBC mandatory for Haney at lightweight. Colbert is in line, through a sub-title, for a shot at the primary WBA 130 lb. titlist Davis. Lopez and Haney have their own war or words as well. All the clashes of the young guns haven’t matured yet but we won’t know which one we really want to see the most, which one matters the most to the coming years, until the sorting begins.
Let them fight.
Let them all fight.
Sooner and later.
It’s a show that could carry the decade.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]