While pound-for-pound king and unified world titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko lords over the lightweight division, the rising talent behind him makes the 135-pound weight class the most loaded in boxing when it comes to young, exciting fighters.
There is 21-year-old Ryan Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs), world titleholders Teofimo Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs), 22, and Gervonta "Tank" Davis (23-0, 22 KOs), 25, and former titlist Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), 21, who no longer has his belt because he was stripped for being unable to make a mandatory defense in a timely fashion because of his recovery from a shoulder injury.
These four have talent, charisma, can talk trash and have fan bases. Lopez appears destined to get his shot at Lomachenko in the coming months, and any of the potential matches between the four of them would be excellent, if boxing politics could be set aside. That's probably wishful thinking, but we can dream, can't we?
The potential rainmaker of the division is Garcia, who continues to show time and again he has more than just good looks with more than 5 million Instagram followers. He's a star. He helped generate a crowd of 10,310 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and he can fight.
Garcia, of Victorville, California, the 2017 prospect of the year, turned in yet another strong performance Friday night that should make even more believers in this young fighter who has great speed and power.
Going into his main event against former two-time world title challenger Francisco Fonseca (25-3-2, 19 KOs), 25, of Nicaragua, Garcia said he wanted everyone to measure his performance against Fonseca to the performances Davis and Tevin Farmer each had against Fonseca.
Garcia, a Canelo Alvarez protégé, put himself out on a limb with those comments but he came through impressively. Fonseca's only previous losses had been to Davis and Farmer, but Garcia beat him much more impressively than they did. Garcia did it with one crushing left hook on the chin just 80 seconds into the fight, scoring a very resounding one-punch knockout. It was Garcia's second mammoth first-round KO in a row; he stunningly crushed the dangerous Romero Duno in 98 seconds in November.
"I saw the left hook, it was there. I just had to commit and caught him in between the shot," Garcia said, explaining his devastating shot against Fonseca. "It's called the perfect left hook."
After the fight, Haney, who like Garcia fights on DAZN (making that match quite plausible), was in the ring with Garcia, whom he fought multiple times at the amateur level. Each has different recollections about how those fights went, and though Haney and Garcia were good-natured with each other postfight, they made it clear they want to fight each other.
"We had great fights in the amateurs," Garcia said. "Much respect. He got love in the game. We need to get this going. We're good fighters. Let's fight!"
That fight is possible down the road, and a fight between Davis and Garcia or Davis and Haney would also be hot matchups, but are less likely because they have contracts with different broadcasters. Lopez, the 2018 prospect of the year, will face Lomachenko in a huge fight, probably on May 30, and the outcome of that unification fight will have a lot to do with what comes next for him and everyone else in the division.
For Garcia, though, because of his fan base, everyone is going to want to fight him. Next up, he probably will take another major step up in opposition against former three-division world titlist Jorge Linares, who isn't what he once was, but remains formidable and should be a solid test. Golden Boy has reserved Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 11 for the potential bout.
In the Garcia-Fonseca co-feature, Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) became the first fighter to stop Carlos Morales (19-5-4, 8 KOs), knocking him out in the fourth round. Morales gave Garcia one of his toughest fights in a 10-round majority decision loss in September 2018.
"If Linares had a good performance, I said I'd fight him. Let's get it on," Garcia said. "I had a plan for 2020 to fight everyone, so I'm going to beat Linares, beat Davis, and then beat Devin."
Those are big plans from Garcia in a division that could provide any number of big fights.
Plant shines in homecoming
Super middleweight world titlist Caleb Plant's long-awaited homecoming fight on Saturday night at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena could not have gone any better.
Plant was well aware that fellow Premier Boxing Champions fighters Jarrett Hurd and Julian "J Rock" Williams, for example, had lost in upsets in their first junior middleweight title bouts at home in the past year, and he vowed to block out all distractions ahead of his mandatory defense against Germany's Vincent Feigenbutz.
Plant (20-0, 12 KOs), 27, seemed to have done that as he mauled the smaller, slower Feigenbutz in one-sided fashion en route to a 10th-round stoppage victory.
What was impressive about Plant's performance was the all-around game that he showed. He was in supreme condition, displayed speed, power, good lateral movement and diversity with his punches as he landed quality jabs, right hands, body shots and uppercuts. A very focused Plant had it all going on against Feigenbutz (31-3, 28 KOs), 24, whose heart should not be questioned even if his skills were mediocre.
The next step: The big fight for Plant is the one he has said he wants most, which is a unification bout against fellow unbeaten PBC fighter David Benavidez, who also says he wants the fight. For my money, it's a can't-miss showdown. But if there was ever a fight that did need a little time to be built up, this is the one since both have star potential but are not yet that well known.
Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs), 23, of Phoenix, has a mandatory defense on tap against Avni Yildirim in the spring, and then I would imagine he would fight again later in the year. Plant also figures to fight at least once more this year, though hopefully at least twice more. To me, it seems more likely that if the unification bout happens it probably would be no sooner than the first half of next year.
So who does Plant fight in the meantime? In the weeks before the Feigenbutz fight, Golden Boy did reach out to Plant adviser Al Haymon to see about Plant's possible availability for a May fight with Canelo Alvarez, who holds a secondary super middleweight belt, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Nothing came of it, however.
A quick perusal of the rankings in the IBF, whose belt Plant holds, and there are three names that stick out as obvious possible opponents because they are affiliated with PBC: former titlist Caleb Truax; Lionell Thompson, who is coming off a December upset decision win over Jose Uzcategui (the man from whom Plant took the title 13 months ago); and veteran brawler Alfredo Angulo, who has won two in a row, including a super-exciting and well-deserved split decision over former middleweight titlist Peter Quillin last September. It seems like a good bet that one of those three fighters will be Plant's next foe -- unless there is sudden movement for a fight with Canelo.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Mexicali, Mexico: Flyweight Elwin Soto (17-1, 12 KOs) KO1 Javier Alejandro Rendon (10-5-3, 4 KOs).
Junior flyweight world titlist Soto, 23, of Mexico, who won his belt in June and defended it in October, stayed busy in a non-title bout in his hometown by taking on countryman Rendon, 23. Soto took him out with ease, landing a perfect left hook to the body that sent Rendon to the mat writhing in pain as he was counted out at 2 minutes, 41 seconds.
Friday at Philadelphia
Lightweight Isaac Cruz (19-1-1, 14 KOs) W10 Thomas Mattice (15-2-1, 11 KOs), 96-94 (twice), 95-95.
In a mild upset, Cruz, 21, of Mexico, edged out a majority decision over Mattice, 29, of Cleveland, in the main event of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" card. Cruz probably was able to scrape by thanks to his superior work rate. He also pounded Mattice to the body, outlanding him there 82-31, per CompuBox stats. Mattice got off to a very slow start and also was unable to utilize his 4-inch height advantage. He did have a strong 10th round to help him pull out the draw.
Junior featherweight Ra'eese Aleem (16-0, 10 KOs) TKO4 Adam Lopez (19-4-2, 9 KOs).
Aleem, 29, of Muskegon, Michigan, made his national television debut in the "ShoBox" co-feature and made a big impression against the more experienced Lopez, 29, of San Antonio. Aleem easily outboxed the slower Lopez, nailed him with shots from all angles and outlanded him 92-11, according to CompuBox. With Lopez bleeding from his nose and scalp, and seemingly having no chance to win the scheduled eight-round bout, Lopez's corner asked referee Gary Rosato to halt the bout at 1 minute, 31 seconds of the fourth round.