The Lightweight division is one of the weird division's in the sport right now, thanks to some odd decisions, and political game playing, by the WBC and the WBA. On paper it should be a division with 2 champions set to unify their titles in Spring, but instead it has two legitimate champions, two pretenders to the throne and another pretender on the way.
WBO, WBC "Franchise" and WBA "Super" - Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10)
In the good old days unification bouts were the ideal and the type of bouts that were supposed to clear up the mess made by having 4 world titles. Instead Vasyl Lomachenko has found out that unifying titles has created a mess with the WBA and WBC both inventing new titles just to collect additional fees whilst someone ties up the main belts. Lomachenko moved to the Lightweight division in 2018, seeking challenges after the pointless match up with Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2017. He won the WBA belt in his divisional debut, he unified that with the WBO title in his next fight, had a mandatory and then added the WBC to his collection. In the space of 15 months he had won 3 titles and was lining up a bout at the IBF belt, before the WBC decided to call him the "Franchise" champion, creating a new belt for Devin Haney, and the WBA created a regular title, now held by Gervonta Davis.
WBO - Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12)
The only legitimate title that Lomachenko doesn't hold is the IBF belt held by explosive American puncher Teofimo Lopez, who claimed the belt in December when he stopped Richard Commey. The touted American is an exciting, heavy handed fighter, but did have some flaws exposed last year when he faced Masayoshi Nakatani and struggled with Nakatani's size, reach, jab and toughness. His win over Commey covered over the Nakatani fight and set him up for the divisional super fight with Lomachenko. He's the division's banger, with dynamite fists, but out of the ring issues, and a lack of experience, combined with over-confidence, could be a problem when he takes faces someone like Lomachenko. At the age of just 22 he's being groomed as a future superstar of American boxing, and win or lose to Lomachenko he has the time to rebuild and become a big player on the US scene.
WBC "In Recess" - Devin Haney (24-0, 15)
Another unbeaten American youngster is Devin Haney, who got a WBC title in weird fashion, when the WBC made Lomachenko the Franchise champion and upgraded Haney's interim title. After defending the belt against the unknown Alfredo Santiago he suffered an injury and the WBC then made him Champion in Recess, making the whole giving him a title, in the way they did, look even more of a joke. At 21 years old and with sensational natural ability, a good boxing mind and a confident, yet level headed, approach in the ring Haney has the hall marks of being something very special. Sadly the WBC have cheapened his first title reign and it feels very much like he's been given an "email world title". His time will come, and he will be a star, but his WBC reign, so far, feels like little more than a cash grab by the WBC.
WBA "Regular" - Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22)
Another unbeaten American making their mark in the division, now, is Gervonta Davis, who made the move up in weight in December. He claimed the "vacant" WBA "regular" title when he stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa last time out, but he really failed to shine against an injured Gamboa. The fact Gamboa lasted into the 12 round, whilst fighting much of the bout on 1 foot, is a worry for Davis, who had been blowing out most opponents early on. Although a very talented and explosive fighter we do wonder about Davis' commitment and professionalism, and he looked in poor condition last time out. He is, also, naturally very small at the weight and this could be a major issue when he begins to face natural Lightweights.
The Super Featherweight division is a really interesting one right now, with a nice selection of fighters at the top. We have destructive punchers, a stylist and some really amazing possible match ups. We also, sadly, have massive amounts of politics with the WBA causing a mess, as we see all too often, and other niggling issues. We also sort of lack depth in the division, which may end up helping force the top fighters to fight each other sooner, rather than later.
So lets take a look at the champions, which as usual aren't in a set order, but we do group the WBA title holders together.
Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) - WBO (1 defense)
Japan's Masayuki Ito has been a professional for almost 9 years, but has only just come to the public's attention in 2018, winning the WBO title in the US, by beating Christopher Diaz, and defending at the end of the year, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov. Despite taking a while to reach the top Ito has really done things in an impressive fashion. His first major triumph was in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, he would later go on to win a WBC Youth title, an OPBF title and a WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's a boxer, though who has started to develop some spite, something we didn't earlier in his career. Early in his career he was a pretty pure boxer mover but has started to stand and hold his feet, scoring 10 stoppages in his last 15 fights and only 3 in his first 12. He's certainly not unbeatable, but he's going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Tevin Farmer (28-4-1-1, 6) - IBF (2 defenses)
Another fighter who has had a long battle to the top before getting recognition recently is American Tevin Farmer. He's been a professional since 2011 and actually lost on debut and was 4-3-1 (1) after 8 bouts. His career really has been a hard slog but he's really shown what he can do and he's one of the best pure boxers in the division, with fantastic natural boxing ability, great movement, sharp punching and a high ring IQ. He won his world title in August 2018 and managed to rack 2 defenses in the following 4 months, but they haven't come against the greatest of challengers and it's going to be interesting when he does step up in class. He's talented, without a doubt, but his bouts aren't the most exciting and he does lack real quality wins, with his best results coming against Ivan Redkach, Daulis Prescott and Billy Dib. Hopefully he slows his activity in 2019 and takes on better competition.
Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) - WBC (4 defenses)
One of the best boxer-punchers in the sport right now, and one of the most criminally over-looked, is Mexican Miguel Berchelt. Berchelt has held the WBC title since January 2017, when he stopped Francisco Vargas, and has scored 4 defenses. On paper he has the strongest record in the division with wins over Vargas, Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman, Cristobal Cruz, Oliver Flores and Jonathan Victor Barros. Berchelt can pretty much do it all, bang, box, brawl and fight. The one loss on his record is a real freak defeat to Venezuelan Luis Eduardo Florez, almost 5 years ago, and shouldn't really be considered when looking at his future bouts. He caught clean and failed to recover, but has since proven his chin. For us he's the most dangerous fighter in the division.
Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Although we think Berchelt is the most dangerous man at 130lbs he does stiff competition in the form of Gervonta Davis. "Tank" is one of the many American fighters who are clearly talented, but simply lack the activity needed to show that talent, the exact opposite of Tevin Farmer. Davis won the IBF title in January 2017, stopping Jose Pedraza, to announce himself on the world stage and defended it once before being stripped for failing to make weight ahead of a bout with Francisco Fonseca. He has since won the WBA "Super" title, in what was clearly a WBA political decision to create a title to give Davis, rather than recognise their "regular" champion as their top guy. Davis is a fantastic boxer, with scary power, a fantastic ability to mix things up and a real attitude in the ring. Sadly he's also the worst managed and promoted fighter in the division, and only fought once in 2018. He's set to defend his title in February against Abner Mares, in a bout that has been widely criticised, and the worry is that he will again fail to be active enough to remain in the memories of fight fans.
Alberto Machado (21-0, 17) - WBA "regular" (2 defenses)
Puerto Rican punches Alberto Machado is another monster puncher at 130lbs, and has a very solid claim to being the WBA's most legitimate champion, despite only being the "regular" champion. Machado beat Jezreel Corrales, who was stripped on the scales before facing Machado. Corrales had ended the long reign of Takashi Uchiyama and should really have been regarded as the fighter with the strongest line at the time, but the WBA didn't really follow any logic, knowing the money that was behind Davis. Since beating Corrales Machado has defended his belt twice, beating both Rafael Mensah and Yuandale Evans. Although not the best boxer he is a dynamite puncher, and puts fighters on the back foot with that power.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.