The lightweight division has nothing left for Raymundo Beltran. Did the thirty-eight-year-old realize as much on Thursday, in the grueling hours before the scale’s cold verdict? Or was it earlier? When he felt the impossibility of those last two pounds, abandoned the illusion of losing them, and, in the process, his long-frustrated quest to relieve a champion of his title?
There was still the fight, though, and if Beltran could have fared better against his opponent than he did at the weigh-in, a significant payday or two might have followed. But that future was thrown into doubt after Richard Commey dropped Beltran four times en route to an eighth-round stoppage at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, on Friday night.
If you read in those results the last gasps of Beltran’s twenty-year career, the moment likely has you imprisoned. Beltran, 36-9-1 (22), looked treadless against Commey, sure, but also competent enough to convince himself of the invigorating powers of an added five pounds. Top Rank will find some purpose for Beltran so long as the money justifies the punishment in the eyes of a fighter who once made his bones as a sparring partner.
What of Commey? Did his win confirm his championship bona fides? No. For all his success, the Ghanaian fighter fought if not on the brink of disaster, then merely a step or two behind that ledge. He has little on Beltran beyond youth and an unfamiliarity with defeat that steels him against doubt. Commey, 29-2 (26), has lost, but never deservingly in his eyes, and so he hurls his punches convinced of the truthfulness of the knockout and the efficacy of his means.
He landed plenty against Beltran—who spent much of the fight recovering from one hard punch or another—but the charming rashness of Commey’s attack nearly cost him. Eager to land his right hand, Commey doesn’t commit the traditional error of cocking it in anticipation; instead, he keeps his right glove in front of his chin or just below it, conceivably to shorten the distance for the punch to travel. Commey’s chin, then, is exposed, and more than once Beltran staved off his own end by cracking a desperate hook into the overzealous Commey’s jaw. Commey compounds this defensive flaw with a poor sense of distance and a tendency to bring his hands back low during dangerously long combinations. Had Beltran been able to endure further punishment, he might very well have upset Commey, who seemed never to escape his best moments in full command of his legs. Like Beltran, Commey is a good television fighter, but not one likely to hold his title for very long.
In fact, Commey will lose his title the next time he defends it. This is no bold prediction or searing take. Quite the contrary—it is stating the obvious.
Before injuring his hand in February, there was talk of Commey trying to unify titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko. Lomachenko is many things, among them a fighter who has met his physical ceiling in his third division. And yet the only intrigue found in a Commey fight would likely have come via a broken hand, torn rotator cuff, or brow cleaved gory by a headbutt—an element of injury necessary to level the playing field. Lomachenko may indeed be more susceptible to such accidents fighting bigger men, but only his devotees could be intrigued by the possibility of injury creating drama. Better that Lomachenko will instead look to add the WBC belt facing Luke Campbell in the latter’s native UK.
Better, too, that there is already discussion for Commey to defend his title against uber-prospect, Teofimo Lopez, who, if he is deserving of our collective excitement, should wipe out Masayoshi Nakatani later this month. Considered the heir apparent not only to the lightweight division (for however long he can squeeze into it) and beyond, but also to Top Rank’s flagship position, the Brooklynite has captured audiences with his theatrics and knack for sudden destruction. He may not enjoy whatever leather Commey can hit him with, but there should be little of it to suffer in the four or five rounds it would take him to sunder so inviting a target.
Which means that very soon Top Rank will be able to deliver us an undisputed lightweight champion. There are ways to scuff the shine of that distinction to be sure, and no chance the winner retains all of that hardware for very long, considering the promotional and network goodwill required for so heavily-belted a fighter to fulfill his mandatory defenses. Making the fight would mean convincing Lomachencko to face the still unproven though undeniably dangerous Lopez; and perhaps Lopez—who thus far has been properly irreverent in speaking of “Hi-Tech”—will recalibrate his ambition when finally offered the challenge he has courted. Oh, and only the new and naive would expect Top Rank to delivery promptly a fight it can tease for a year or so, especially considering what little incentive there is for the company to get their present or future knocked off by the other—an outcome the loser might interpret as proof of favoritism.
So no one should be surprised if Lopez enters the junior-welterweight ranks as merely the IBF lightweight champion. In boxing, the reasons to not make fights are as myriad as they are unsatisfying, and they always outnumber their contrary. But Lomachenko–Lopez would tell us who the best lightweight in the world is and, in sport, such reasons should reign supreme.